57 / 100
33cl can purchased as part of the 2020 Carwyn Canvent Calendar.
Pours a relatively light coloured and light-bodied brown colour—it's almost a deep amber rather than brown. It's certainly not black. A dark IPA then. Head is a coarse-bubbled head of beige that leaves some patches of lace, but otherwise collapses pretty quickly.
Nose is pleasant though—leaning very heavily on the aromatic hops, with citrus being the main focus. It's very much in the style of the "surprise!" IBAs though, in that it's just dark enough to throw you off, and otherwise it smells like an IPA. But it's fine.
Taste is a pleasantly created IPA. As in, it has enough grain malt structure to support a hop bouquet. In particular, it has a soft orange pith and mandarin flavour which again doesn't owe anything to the B in its style. Pleasant bitterness on the back, again tied mostly to a zesty citrus note, and the finish is dry and clean.
Feel is a bit flat, with lower than expected carbonation.
I get it. This was a fun gimmick for a while: "look! it's dark! but it tastes like an IPA!". It's a cosmetic thing only though, and there's something really quite wonderful that can be done with a hint more darkness in an IPA-style beer. This doesn't even really get the dark colour that right. But it's a drinkable beer, and enjoyable. There's just no need for it to be black.
61 / 100
Bottle shared with me by Jez, probably on a brewday sometime.
Pours a dark brown colour, colour at the edge is almost golden but dark otherwise. Head is pale yellow, sparse bubbling but revived with a swill. Lacing a bit thin and spotty. Looks alright.
Smells sweet, roasty. Quite treacly with molasses, a hint of coffee and a slight fruity note - currants and dates but also a hint of orange. Nice aromas but not a lot of oomph to it.
Taste is more intriguing because that slight fruity character runs through more prominently. Some dark molasses malt upfront, develops a candied orange peel and currant flavour midway, with a hint of pie spice - cinnamon and clove on there. Lingers with a slight citric tartness but is otherwise dark (not roasty) and sweet. Pretty interesting but again not quite rounded, it's predominantly sweet and fruity and could use more bottom or top-end balance.
A bit harsh on the mouthfeel, some boozey heat cuts through the malt on the front and especially on the back. Smooth body but undermined.
Some good character, but it loses its beery essence and needs to be more roasty to balance it I feel.
57 / 100
So this is a confusing one - a Black IPA but given the "New England" treatment so black but hazy? Also with blood orange in it. Brewed for GABS 2017, and tried in a sampler.
Pours a black colour; really black. Sedimenty cloud adds to the murkiness. Beige head, a little whispy but sticks around alright. Looks good.
Smells tangy, with some dark fruit character. Fair sweetness as well, with honey and a slight biscuity aroma blending with grapefruit and orange zest. Pleasant.
Taste is a bit weird and empty in the middle. Caramel/cocoa notes on the front, fairly dark and sweet then the finish is really, very bitter. Grapefruit sharpness without the tang or any of the freshness. Roasty and oily from the hops as well. Just feels like it goes from sweet to bitter without a transition point in the middle and it's quite astringent.
Decently smooth body, but yeah a bit sharp on the back.
Not bad, but really very bitter. Others might love it but it's not really my kind of thing.
74 / 100
12oz brown bottle purchased from Davidson's Liquor in Denver, CO.
Pours a deep brown colour, with some clarity, although when thick the darkness adds opacity. Head is a frothy, coarse-bubbled mess of beige that leaves long streaks of lace. Body is surprisingly slick, although from the carbonation you can tell that it has weight behind it. Looks good.
Nose is mostly dark, with barrel characters coming through to give rummy booze and hints of tannic wine. There's also dark notes from the malt, giving off characters of coffee and plasticine. As it warms, it gets spicier too, with notes of aniseed and fresh fennel.
Taste is weirdly smooth. On the entry, I get orange-flavoured boiled sweets, tempered with a little milk chocolate. Barrel characters add vanilla and a little vinous tannic bite through the centre. The back has vanilla and a little peppery booze, like chilli wine. Feel is super smooth, which really helps to express the flavours.
This crept up on me, but in the end, I think it's a really tasty beer. It comes across as a bit mismatched initially, but it proved me wrong and assuaged my fears quite beautifully. It ends up super smooth and really very enjoyable.
74 / 100
Tried on tap (sample-size) at GABS 2017 in Melbourne.
Pours a dark-brown colour, clear body with lovely dense, beige head retaining a nice crown. Great retention and lace. Looks great.
Smells a bit savoury, kind of corporeal from whatever souring bugs they've used here. Some citrus and green apple notes as well. By and large it's pleasant.
Tastes good. Nice caramel tinge to the malt, develops some nice sour characters midway that mingle and play off the hops really well. Big green apple character with some sharp grapefruit bitterness and acidity. No oak (that was promised) but a good wild barnyardy and citric interplay. Nice beer.
Decent texture, bit of carbonation sizzle to it.
Nice drop. Sourness that's offset by hop bitterness.
Tried on tap at the brewery in Denver.
Pours an inky black brown colour, darker than is often the case for an IBA. Head forms a nice fine beige ring with some pleasant streaky lace. Body is quite light with swift, fine carbonation.
Nose is a bit mild. It's not obviously big with dry hops, but a pleasant toasty roasted character comes through nicely. It's aromatic in a different way with hints of anise and dust. Not bad.
Taste is similar. It's a bit bloating in flavour: sweeter and darker than you expect. Bitterness is there, but it's easy to believe it's not due to the hops. Slick and smooth through the middle with hints of vanilla and aniseed. Finish has a touch of bitterness and a solid roast character.
Feel is quite light, especially for a 7% ABV beer.
Overall, it's pretty decent. It's not outstanding, but I like that it's as drinkable as it is. For its ABV, it's quite approachable.
Mulberry, Cherry and Vanilla Black IPA, brewed for GABS 2017. Tried at the festival in Melbourne.
Pours a brown colour, slightly cloudy. Head is beige; visible bubbles but retaining a nice crown. Looks pretty good, head is great.
Smells sweet, with an odd medicinal character. Notes of chocolate and vanilla, and maybe the fruit is turning it to that medicinal note. It does have some fresh berry notes towards the back, but largely just dark malty.
Taste is a fairly standard brown ale palate. Chocolate malt upfront with a hint of vanilla, develops a subtle and mellow roast towards the back, slightly bitter finish. Not much mulberry and certainly no cherry. Quite a decent palate but lacking the adjuncts that were promised.
Decent body, slight hint of warming booze. Not bad.
I kept thinking this was a brown ale, as it's conspicuously lacking hops along with a dearth of the promised adjuncts. It's really not a bad drop but it's quite disappointing compared with the tasting notes and what I was expecting.
I shortlisted this for retrying at the end of the festival, it didn't crack my top 20.
What's this, a beer without adjuncts or weird fermentation, brewed for GABS 2017? One that just neatly fits into a style category? Yes indeed. Tried at the festival in Melbourne on tap.
Pours a dark-brown colour, clear body with nice foamy beige-coloured head. Retains pretty well. Looks to style; pretty good.
Smells like a good IBA. Zesty and citric hops, with notes of lemon/lime blending with some stonefruit notes, mango and passionfruit as well. Pleasant, fairly sharp.
Taste is very hop-driven as well. Slight caramel character upfront but no other malt presence except to underline those hops that come on very early. Predominantly citric and west coast, with lemon-lime on the mid and then a long grapefruit bitterness towards the back. Quite bitter and very Cascadian. I do like my IBAs to have a bit more malt presence, but this is pretty good.
Body is a little thick, and there's a touch of booze on the back. It needs a big body to carry off those hops but I feel it's a bit too gloopy.
Pretty decent hop bomb, could maybe hold back just a bit on the bitterness and allow the malt to have more of a presence. But this is a personal preference rather than inherent problems with the beer.
60 / 100
Black Smoked Rye IPA, brewed for GABS 2017. Tried at the festival in Melbourne on tap.
Pours a dark brown colour; not quite black but a good colour nonetheless. Head is beige, dense and retains pretty well. Looks good.
Smells spicy and malty at first, then some citrus tang comes on with mandarin, lemon and a slight resinous note as well. No smoke, which is a shame, but otherwise alright.
Taste is quite a mishmash. Dark toffee malt upfront, like toffee taken too far, that develops some spice notes midway, more sweet pie spice than classic rye character, then a lemon twist takes over late-mid before a slight smokey smoulder on the back. Delivers more on its promise than the nose did but tastes incoherent and muddy because of not really having enough of any one character.
Decent body, slight warmth on the back that goes alright with the flavours.
Not bad, but really disconnected between parts. I think maybe dialing up one of the flavours more than others may have made this more rewarding, or otherwise just dispensing with one of those characters entirely.
61 / 100
NZ sour IPA. Tried in a taster at GABS in Melbourne.
Pours a deep brown colour, with some hazing. Body has some weight behind it and holds fine carbonation. Head is beige and firm in consistency, with thin rings of lace. Looks good.
Nose is sour, more just sour than a combination of the acidity and the hops. However, as it warms, the acidity turns to a kind of lemon drop aroma, and the hops gain a kind of herbal edge. It is a little dull though.
Taste is thin on the front, with a reedy, metallic character that developes into sharp acid through the centre. Back trends towards aluminium foil, while the finish is cleaned up by some latent hops, but leaves an after taste of aspirin.
Feel is very thin and sharp.
It's okay. But it's lighter than you might think, and the characters don't necessarily blend all that well. It's a bit of a miss for me.
Wine Barrel-Aged Black IPA, brewed for GABS festival 2017. Tried there on tap.
Pours a dark-brown colour, quite clear with beige foam forming a nice crown on top. Looks quite good.
Smells vinous, vinous, vinous. HUGE red wine character, basically just an oak-and-tannin blend, with beer-esque notes conspicuously lacking. Still, pretty impressive and appealing.
Taste is similar. Some subtle chocolate malt notes upfront but the oak takes a strangle-hold early; giving woody notes midway before that big rich red wine character takes over on the back. The blend with the malt gives it a dark fruit kind of character, but yeah that vinous oak really dominates. Could use some more hops to cut through.
Full body, decent warming alcohol hints. Not bad.
Nice enough drop, but I’m not sure why they called it/made it as an IPA because a richer, darker stout or porter would work so well with such a full-on oaky bang. Here it just feels like it drowns the IPA characters rather than working with them.
42 / 100
Imperial Black IPA brewed for GABS 2017. Tried there on tap.
Pours an amber colour, way too pale for the style. Head is beige-coloured, foamy and retaining thick. Looks great, apart from the colour.
Smells grainy, of breakfast cereal. Slight hint of apple which puts me in mind of fermentation by-products rather than hops. Smells neither imperial nor India. And we already know it isn’t black, so yeah, meh…
Taste is very sweet. Cake batter and toffee characters to the malt that develops some honey midway. Light fruit comes through late-mid but not very pronounced; hint of pear and some lemon notes. Predominating character on the back is booze, and lingering sweetness. Pretty unimpressive.
Full body, the alcohol is quite sharp though and cuts through even with the big malt base.
Yeah, too full on. Really, desperately needs more hops to cut through and they’re practically non-existent here.
22oz brown bomber purchased from BevMo in Sunnyvale, CA.
Pours a rather muddy black-brown colour, highly hazed so that it looks opaque. Head forms a messy cap of beige that leaves leopard-speckled lace down the side of the glass. Body is surprisingly light. Looks decent enough though.
Nose is reasonably nice. There's a muted, kind of lightweight roast quality to the aroma, which reminds me a little of a schwartzbier. There's some hop character, but it's fairly generic, giving a slight herbal quality that's turned earthy from the additional roast notes. Nice, but nothing very special.
Taste is similar. There's a pleasantly forward roast note, that creates structure around the edges and towards the back of the palate. The hops are again fairly straightfoward, but they propel the palate from front to back, giving a clean and clear vector of bitterness.
Feel is indeed quite light, with a thinness that doesn't help it, especially for 9.5% ABV—at the very least, the booze is tamed, which is good.
Overall, it's a decent brew, but not one that really makes me very excited. It's only in the kind of range of "standard india black ale", and given the size of it, that's a bit disappointing.
76 / 100
330ml brown bottle purchased as part of a bulk order with some folks at work.
Pours a deep brown colour, mahogany at the edges, with a full, rich head of pale mocha. It persists as a nice fine film, sticking in sheeting lace to the sides of the glasses. Carbonation is very fine, but the body looks pleasingly light. Looks good all up.
Nose is also pretty nice. It's mostly billed around the aromas of dark malt, but it doesn't feel too thick or heavy, and there's a nice vegetative lightness that leavens and brightens the nose. As it warms, these characters get more complex, with notes of black pepper and curry leaf. Under it though is this darkness with hints of light roasted coffee and carob. Nice stuff.
Taste is also pretty good, but it's really quite bitter, with a pronounced resiny aftertaste that combines with some of the dark malts to feel ashy. The front has more aromatic elements though. Some carob and dry chocolate notes, plus a slight herbal quality around the edges. It's a decent package all up. Feel is smooth and slick—it's not too heavy, but it glides on the palate.
Overall, I'm really quite happy with this. I like an india black ale that doesn't shy away from the darkness in the flavour. This doesn't have the big, bold American hop flavours in American examples, but it manages to nicely balance things and create a beer with its own identity.
76 / 100
330ml can purchased from Slowbeer.
Pours a decent deep brown colour that holds its depth when held to the light. This isn't one of those half-assed IBAs that tries to get to the very minimum colour possible. Head is fine but slightly fizzy, meaning it doesn't sustain all that well. Eventually, it ends up being a fairly minimal ring of ochre bubbling and a flat island of lace. Minimal lacing on the side of the glass too. Carbonation is moderate, slightly coarse and fast moving. Overall, it's an okay looking beer, but not a real standout.
Nose is very pleasant. It's bright and slightly floral, with notes of jasmine and honeysuckle. There's a slight pasty, grainy note underneath things, more like malt dust or flour than wholesome wholegrains. The hops are also much more rounded than they often are for an IPA—there's no sharp, biting citrus here. It's nice.
Taste is good. There's a firm bitterness, that works very pleasantly with an additional roasted character. It's not powerful, and it doesn't overwhelm the palate, but it's present, and makes the darkness of the IBA seem purposeful. The back is slightly nutty as the roast dips off, and the hop bitterness lingers enough to create a conclusion, without becoming nasty and biting towards the finish.
Feel is smooth but clean throughout, and it has a lightness in the finish.
Overall, this is a good IBA—it's not just an IPA in disguise. It has plenty to say for itself, and the roast plays an integral part to the beer. The hops could even be more strongly forthright in the flavour and aroma and they wouldn't completely overpower the darkness. That's a good sign.
58 / 100
650ml green, capped and corked bottle purchased from Slowbeer. This is a collaboration between Fantôme, Birrificio Math and Brasserie du Flo.
Pours a deep, rich black-brown colour, the colour of dense, untempered dark chocolate, with a head that froths easily at the start, bubbling out to a persistent centimetre or so of beige crest. Minimal, patchy, sudsy lace. Body is not overly light, but seems about right for the ABV.
Nose had a whiff of vibrant hops to begin with, but these quickly dissipate, leaving mostly a semi-sweet chocolate note with hints of coffee grounds and earth. The hop character still provides a slight leavening though, giving some vague overtones of musk, fairy floss or jasmine. Mostly, it's about the darkness though, which isn't an unpleasant thing for an IBA, although it does tend to be unusual.
Taste is sharp from front to back, with a resiny, oily hop presence that seems too high a price to pay for the lack of aroma. Fortunately, there's enough body to buffer it, and there's a slight sweetness towards the back that provides some balance. However, due to the presence of the dark characters, the bitterness does seem too harsh in the finish, evoking characters of char and ash.
Feel is okay. The body has a little bit more weight than a regular Fantôme beer (as it should for the style), but the carbonation is still fairly fierce, leaving it aerated on the palate and bloating in the belly.
Overall, it's not bad, but it ends up delivering neither a great example of the style, nor anything near the top of Fantôme's abilities. These two facts both individually make this a disappointment: together they make it a crying shame.
See Jez's review for context. Reviewed from notes two years after drinking. Had to look up the order of Jez's reviews to find out what this was as I reviewed it blind and didn't write what the beer actually was.
Pours a dark-brown colour, with beige head, large bubbles and sparsely distributed. Lace is not that exciting. Otherwise, looks nice.
Smells somewhat hoppy, mostly. Fruity, with notes of apricot and passion. Some sweet cake-batter malt notes as well; caramel, vanilla, touch of buttery goodness. Smells a lot lighter than it looks. Could use some darker grounding, just for expectation management.
Taste is very bitter throughout. Again, not very roasty or dark though, it's a resinous, woody bitterness that runs throughout the palate. Notes of chewy caramel toffee upfront with some passion and citrus midway. Some resin comes through late, yeah it tastes light again. Could think you're drinking an IPA; doesn't have a lot of dark or roast characters. That's not a bad thing, but it seems off-colour; given that it's not a light beer it can have some dark characters and still be nice. Just seems a bit lacking as a result.
Decent body, bit of pull towards the back. Not bad.
Nice old beer, all things considered. Would like some more emphasis on the darker notes, because frankly it just needn't be dark-coloured for the way it tastes. Though all up it does taste nice at the end of the day.
Tried on tap at GABS 2016.
Pours a dark-brown, slightly cloudy. Head is beige and clings to the cup beautifully. Looks sticky and inviting.
Smells hoppy, with a touch of roast. Pear, lemon and passionfruit give a decent fruity mix, and there's a decent bitter roast too. Good balance, but not amazing hop-wise.
Taste is fairly bitter. Dark malt character upfront that turns roasty towards the back where it's joined by grapefruit, orange zest and a big resinous note that together with the roast make it really quite bitter. Maybe could use some more late hopping to give it a bit more hop character as it's a bit simple especially midway.
Full body, decent texture.
Decent black IPA, and more in my style of IBAs than Akasha's GABS beer. But at the same time the hop character isn't quite as nice, and I feel like the balance here is sort of wasted potential as it's a nice drinkable beer that isn't ultimately very interesting.
This beer did really well on the Untappd ratings at the festival. Power to it but I wasn't a massive fan even though it's perfectly decent.
330ml brown bottle purchased from Slowbeer.
Pours a pleasant deep black-brown—certainly a lot of colour on this one, with a fine beige head that leaves nice streaks of lace. Carbonation is plentiful but slightly coarse, flowing through a rather thin body. Looks pretty good all up.
Nose is very pleasant. There's a redolent hop character first up that diminishes a little as time goes on. When it's there, there's sweet citrus, a little tropical fruit like pineapple, and a slight herbal, grassy note. As it goes down, we get a definite toastiness in its place—certainly enough to suggest that there's something to the blackness besides the colour, as it should be for an India Black Ale.
Taste is a little more subdued, partially due to the rather thin body. There's a firm bitterness through the centre though, and just enough roasted notes around the edge of the palate to remind you this isn't an IPA. Some mild fruit notes just anoint the tongue on the back palate, but mingle with a slightly metallic aftertaste.
The feel is the low point for me: with the bitterness and the metallic aftertaste, I just want something to cushion it a little bit. It feels very dry and thin, and can certainly afford a little bit more body.
Overall though, it's a pretty pleasant beer. It could be better with a few minor changes, but it's a solid beer for the style. I was pretty happy drinking it.
70 / 100
'Specialty beer' brewed with new world hops and Belgian chocolate. Argue with my style classification if you like, I'll just be entertaining myself with a pack of pornographic playing cards featuring the cast of Beverly Hills 90210.
Tried on tap at GABS 2016 in Melbourne.
Pours a darkish brown colour, clear but dark with foamy beige head, retaining well. Looks pretty good.
Smells of chocolate, with hops. Yeah, what it promised. Cocoa nibs are strong, and the new world hops are an equal force, with pear, apricot, passionfruit and lime all contributing. Really quite pleasant but a bit odd.
Caramel tinge to the malt upfront, develops hops fairly early on, mostly fruity with passionfruit and sweet citrus notes giving orange mostly. Touch of spice towards the back and somehow the chocolate makes itself known more through the texture and sort of tying it all together like a malt base would. It's hoppy and sweet and velvety.
Full, thick body that just glides down. Wonderful.
Nice drop. Can't quite deliver in full on either the hoppiness or the chocolate, I think because they're fundamentally irreconcilable as flavours. It delivers on balance, but I feel either the chocolate or the hops could be more dominant without compromising on balance and it would just be more remarkable as an overall package.
69 / 100
Bottle gifted to me by Jez, tried at home by myself.
Pours a dark brown colour, nice foamy beige head, large bubbly top but tight underneath. Lacing is thick and gorgeous. Colour is a little unusual but otherwise gorgeous.
Smells roasty and pleasant. Chocolate, touch of aniseed, pepper, with some mild citric spice edge, noble hop grassiness and slight herbal edge. Pleasant aroma but maybe a touch too sweet.
Taste is really quite sweet and boozey. Chocolatey on the front, cocoa and caramel character that develops more brandy and cognac notes, particularly on the back. Spice and some vinous bites on the mid as well, but yeah maybe lacking hops a bit, it has mostly roastiness and the bite on the back is predominantly boozey. Still bitter but it lacks that cutting fresh bitterness of hops.
Feels somewhat thin on the front but as it gets boozey on the back the body comes to its own and it's quite smooth.
Nice dark ale, but going in expecting an IPA, it feels a little sweet and malty without that hop edge. Pleasant though.
76 / 100
Just came across this old reviewing sheet from GABS 2014, where I first tried this beer. The reason I hung onto it was because I was using BeerAdvocate for my reviewing at the time, and I would have had to enter an "Address" for KAIJU! beer, which at the time was not forthcoming from the interwebs. So while this is a very, very retroactive review, I'm confident my notes were comprehensive enough at the time to cover any gaps in my memory.
Pours a dark brown colour, clear with large bubbly head, tan in colour, and fair retention. Dark; pleasant-looking beer.
Smells fruit salady, probably citra-hopped? Mandarin, passionfruit and pineapple, with mango giving a big sweet character. Tangy and sweet, and a touch of bitterness. Could use more darkness but nice otherwise.
Taste has more roasted character on it, just the way I like it. Cocoa character to the malt upfront, then hops take hold with passionfruit, and mango adding a nice complementary sweetness. It's very hop-driven and tangy but without a lot of bitterness from the hops. Nice India Black Ale notes, though, with complementing roast and hops character. It's my kind of beer, just bitter enough without drawing too much attention to it.
Alcohol is slightly warming, with a full body. Not bad.
Nice IBA. I didn't think much of it at first, but it really came through by the end of the sampler.
The "Not Othello's Curse" beer brewed for GABS 2016 by the Australian master of US hops.
Pours a dark brown colour, clear to the edge with lovely creamy beige head. Maybe a touch pale but otherwise looks great.
Smells lovely, big hop notes all over it. Apple fruit, with lemon, pineapple, pine wood even and passionfruit. Not a lot of character from the dark malts, but nice otherwise.
Taste is very similar. Light malt upfront that develops pear character towards the mid-palate then goes full citrus with grapefruit and lemon vying for supremacy with a tangy passionfruit character in the mix as well. Floral notes abound on the fringes towards the back. Still lacking the roast; it's a very nice IPA character but then why is it dark?
Alcohol is a bit of a problem on the mouthfeel as it's quite sharp and hot. Otherwise decent body but not enough for paddin'. Pun intended.
Bit sharp, and otherwise it's just an IPA rather than an IBA. I had a brief argument with Dave at Sydney GABS a week after I tried this, and it seems we just have the complete opposite view of what an IBA should be, which is fine. This is a pleasant IPA, I just don't see the point of making it dark if you won't include some roasty or darker notes in the flavour.
72 / 100
Pours a murky brown, faint hint of red to it, clear body. Head is a bit too voluminous, beige and nicely webbed with pillowy texture on top. Lacing is lovely and sticky. Looks great apart from that too-big head.
Smells nice. Fairly hoppy, with big fruit notes - tangerine, pine and passion and a nice resinous edge. Malt is chocolatey, rich and quite sweet on the nose. Touch of sharp spice at the back. Hint of vanilla. Great IBA aroma.
Taste is quite bitter and sharp from the get-go, with a dry peppery spice all over it as well. Slight roasty malt with some freeze-dried coffee character upfront, gets a big resinous hit midway, then some lighter fruity malt late-mid with some grapefruit and more of that tangerine. Decent chocolate sweetness on there too. Pleasant flavour, bit sharp early and flat late as a result of the early sharpness. But the balance is there overall.
Hops come through sharply, midway through and it does mar the texture as it goes down. Otherwise fine.
It's the way I like my IBAs, but it just seems a bit skewed towards hops upfront and not so much on the back. Decent but a tweak in the hop schedule could make it amazing.
78 / 100
500ml brown bottle, part of the Black Box of Dark Ales. Purchased from Camperdown Cellars in Leichhardt.
Pours a deep brown colour, certainly not black, and almost chestnut at the edges of the glass or when it's held to the light. Head is fine and silky, forming a beige film across the top of the glass with some pocked pancake bubbles. Lacing is decent. Body is fairly firm and it has some nice, fine, languid carbonation.
Nose is pleasant, but not immediately pungent with hops. Still, there's a nice amalgamation of sweet malts, just a dusky toastiness, and some fragrant fruit notes, more stewed than anything. It's very pleasant, well integrated, but not particularly bold.
Taste is very pleasant. Here, that amalgamation they manage between the malt and the hops is very well matched, and it makes for a really nice, smooth and drinkable experience. The malt isn't forward, but it provides some lovely basis and depth, that the more bitter notes paint themselves on. The bitterness is also nicely balanced—some comes from the hops, but some comes from a twinge of roasted malt, and it makes for a more interesting experience.
Feel is quite light, aiding the drinkability, but it has a silky quality that helps that complexity and depth.
Overall, this is a really nice beer. It's not a punchy, aggressive beer, but it's one with balance and structure that really helps make it smooth, drinkable and coherent. I like it a lot.
85 / 100
Pours a dark brown colour, maybe reddish tinge to it. Head is beige, nice fluffy texture when poured and sinks to a thin crown with specks of lacing left behind. Looks nice. Very nice.
Smells toasty. Slightly burnt, bitter but a nice touch of fruitiness over it as well. Slight citric twang, some rich bitter-sweet chocolate. Cinnamon, too. Smells very tasty. Good mix of smells here.
Taste is roasty, chocolatey with some dry bitterness midway. Has cocoa flavours, touch of berry on the mid-palate and some dark woody notes late with some cinnamon bark, cranberry maybe and some raisin. Finishes a bit dry, which is lovely as there's quite a lot of rich flavours, and bitterness but it's cleaned up beautifully on the back. Really excellent palate, could just be a very nicely-hopped porter to my mind.
Smooth, maybe a touch on the thin side, but a nice texture.
Very tasty porter, has a lot of likeable flavours and a well constructed palate. I'll go with IBA for the classification but drinks more like a porter overall.
73 / 100
330ml brown bottle purchased from Slowbeer in Melbourne.
Pours a pleasant oily brown colour, with a rather fine and fluid body. Carbonation is very fine, suggesting there is a bit of weight to it. Head is very fine as well, and forms a mild crest of beige that promotes excellent, intricate lace. Overall, it looks great.
Nose is a bit of a disappointment, but it's not bad even so. Strong roasted note gives it a rather ashy aroma that blocks some of the hop character. This is still here, but really only provides a kind of earthy undertone, or perhaps a slight fruit bend to the darkness. It may just be that the bottle is a little old, after all, it's had to come across the world to my hands.
Taste is reasonably pleasant. Smooth body touched again with slightly ashy notes that flicker around the edges. Hops provide some fruit characters through the centre, and a mild suggestion of sweetness, buttressed by a mild biscuity or vanilla flavour. As it warms a little, there's even some mild oaky notes towards the back, which add another level of complexity. Indeed, it's a significantly different (and probably better) beer as it warms up.
Feel is smooth but quite light, hiding the 9.2% ABV well.
Overall, it ends up being pretty good. Don't serve it too cold and you'll be rewarded with some smoothness, some perfume and a more integrated experience. The nose is still its weakest point, but I'm prepared to chalk that up to a long voyage to Australia. I'll certainly be happy to try it again closer to its source.
77 / 100
Reviewing this separately, as I feel the new vintages are significantly enough changed from the originals to warrant their own entry. This version is also 9.5% ABV, so 1 percentage point higher than the previous versions I've tried. Come in a 750ml dark green capped bottle, purchased directly from the brewery as part of their Beerdvent advent calendar. This was the beer for Christmas Day.
Pours a beautifully silky dark black-brown, with a very fine and very voluminous head of chocolate brown bubbles that leave sheets and intricate streaks of lacing. Carbonation is powder-fine, and folds sweetly through the velvety body. It's a great looking beer, no doubt about that.
Nose is excellent as well. In true B2 Bomber form, it's heavy on the roast, giving it a dark, ashy aroma that nonetheless speaks of dark fruits like blood plums and blackberries. Hops are again only a secondary character, but they provide a different angle on the ashiness, with a bit of resinous bite. Other sweeter flavours come through as it warms, in particular milk chocolate and vanilla. All up, it's another great nose.
Taste is also very good, and here it's pretty sharp with roast, especially towards the back. Bitterness from the hops works in with that ashy note to give it a very robust finish. Before that, there's the rounded smoothness of the body (and a slight warmth of booze, although it's quite well hidden), which softens the palate. It does cling a little, making it feel a bit too sharp—from my experience with previous vintages, it's likely a character that mellows with age. At around the 12-month mark, this is usually softened, leaving a superb beer in its wake.
Overall, though, it's hard to argue with the fact that this is still a truly excellent beer. It's smooth, with a bit of attitude that it needs to work through. Likely, it's just that roughness and rawness that will see it survive over time. If you have a bottle you're sitting on at the moment, I recommend sitting on it a little longer. This, like its former incarnations, looks like it's ready for the long haul.
69 / 100
22oz bomber purchased from BevMo in Willow Glen, CA.
Pours a deep brown colour, with some clarity perceptible when held to the light. Head forms in a massively overcarbonated mess to begin with, settling to a more reasonable but nonetheless boisterous cap of beige. Some soapy lace. Body looks fairly light and fluid.
Nose is pleasant, and encompasses those nice counterpoints of a good IBA. Pleasant restrained toastiness mingling with some dark citrus undertones, giving it a slight choc-orange note. There are also some mild nutty tones as well, giving a hint of marzipan or amaretto. It's quite pleasant.
Taste is similar. There's a good, firm bitterness from the hops, which in turn feeds into a slightly bittersweet roasted character. Pithy orange notes form on the back with the real bitterness, which is certainly fairly dominant. Feel is slick, but not particularly full—this in turn makes it seem more bitter again.
Overall. It's solid stuff, with a good amount of aggression to it. It does tend a little towards the vibe of "let's throw everything in and see what we get", but it still comes up with something that makes sense.
On tap at the brewery, 20/09/15. Marketing material and conversations with staff didn't shed light on whether this is a replacement for Shawn's fault.
Pours a brown colour, definitely brown ale-ish rather than black. I've seen red ales this colour. Head has a slight beige tinge to it, nice lacing and decent retention, although all bubbles. Could be a bit darker but OK.
Smells resinous and citric, touch of NZ hop but otherwise seems mostly US west coast to me. Touch of chocolate grain as well as roasted malt, good balance and blend. Smells nice.
Taste is a bit lighter than expected. Some caramalt notes and a touch of butterscotch (not diacetyl). Then mostly hops, citrus and green apple and a fair resinous note that borders on medicinal. Decent but could use amping up that dark malt for a bit more interest. Tastes like a rich normal IPA rather than a black one.
Smooth, touch of pull from the hops to a dry finish.
Nice big-flavoured beer. Doesn't strike me as hugely exciting though or particularly drinkable in terms of balance.
56 / 100
12oz brown bottle purchased from Whichcraft, Austin.
Pours a proper brown-black colour, with a rather deep ochre head that stays as a rather creamy persistence. Lacing is excellent. Very full and thick, leaving a big wallop on the inside of the glass.
Nose is pleasant as well. Toasty roasted notes matched and connected well with some fragrant hoppiness, that gives it a leavened citric tone. Together it smells a little like slightly burnt toast spread with homemade lemon butter. It's simple, but pleasant.
Taste is a little too burnt, to my mind. There's a fragrance from the hops, which does tend towards the properly bright and citric, but there's a persistent charred character, that makes it prematurely bitter towards the back, with a character that speaks of banana skins and dankness.
Feel is light, but fairly appropriate.
Overall, it's okay, but it's significantly too ashy and acrid for a real IBA. The darkness takes over too much, and leaves it feeling rather dry and aggressively bitter.
60 / 100
Tried on-tap at GABS 2015 in Melbourne.
Pours a dark brown colour that seems very clear at the edges. Body is quite light, holding some fine carbonation. Head is a pale yellowish beige that stays pretty solidly at least, and leaves some fairly decent lace. Looks good.
Nose is dusty with a little bland malt integrated with some slightly bland, generic hops. It kind of fits the bill in the most inoffensive way possible. That's not bad, it's just not really exciting though.
Toasty flavours on the front, with a slightly metallic flavour that develops into a hint of melon or some other kind of fruit. Dusty on the back with a lingering dance between faint bitterness and dry chocolate. Finish is quite light and empty.
Feel is dry but quite full. With more flavour to work with it would be OK.
It's not bad all up, but it's a bit dull, and it didn't really grab my attention when there were hundreds of other beers to sample as well.
70 / 100
Tried on-tap at GABS 2015 in Melbourne.
Pours a deep brown colour, muddy and opaque with a clean light weight to the body. Head is a yellowish-tan, forming a very firm crest that leaves very solid lacing. Tilting produces fine carbonation. Looks good.
Nose is mild and clean, with some dusty darkness to it. There's a bit of deep chocolate and some subtly fruit. Supposedly oaked, but I don't sense anything from it on the nose.
Palate starts out quite light, but becomes rather tasty and smooth mid-way through with some decent body. Slight hint of the red wine comes through, and does give up a little tannin. This is matched with a clean bitterness that punctuates the finish.
Feel is a little lightweight, but it's not bad.
Overall, it's pretty solid stuff. It's surprisingly easy to drink, partially because the flavours are more subtle than they might have otherwise been. Overall, I like it well enough.
58 / 100
Tried on-tap at GABS 2015 in Melbourne.
Pours a deep red-brown colour, quite clear in the glass and surprisingly light-bodied. Head is off-white, forming a minimal coarse-bubbled ring that leaves impersistent lace. Carbonation is fine and powdery.
Nose is quite dull. There's some seedy vegetative notes to it and a hint of pepper, but not much else. There's some vague, couched darkness in there as well, but overall it's pretty mild. It's not unpleasant but it's just a bit dull.
Front has a flavour like celery seeds, along with some dusty bitterness that turns peppery dry. Very low sweetness in this beer, leaving it dry and dusky towards the back with a little bit of hop bite. Aftertaste is very dry and dull.
Feel is very light, which doesn't help matters.
Overall, it's pretty dull. It's not awful though, and it's inoffensive enough to not be undrinkable. There were much more interesting brews at GABS though.
83 / 100
Tried on-tap at GABS 2015 in Melbourne.
Pours a deep, ruby black colour, very clear despite the depth of the colour. Head forms a firm, yellowed off-white ring that leaves good, fine gauzy sheets of lace. Carbonation is fine and powdery. Looks pretty good all up.
Nose is great. Lovely crisp, bright hops livened up with pepper and crushed fresh mint. There's a depth to the malt though that also gives it a slight meaty edge. It's really good.
Lovely palate too. Fresh mint on the front again, with a herbal bite, but mingled expertly with plenty of fruit and citrus hops. Smooth body through the centre, with some slight biting Belgian notes that almost suggest a touch of tartness. Roast is also in there, but always in delicate balance with the other flavours. Long, lingering finish allows a little booze to come through, adding a little weight, but a pleasant vegetative, herbal bitterness on the back prevents it from getting too thick and heavy. It's really lovely.
Feel is smooth and sharp at once, which makes for a nice package.
Yep, this is a cracker. Big and flavoursome throughout, and earns it booziness: it's a purposeful, complex and very delicious beer.
83 / 100
Bottle gifted to me by the Jezbian, shared with Andrew 12/6/15.
Pours a dark brown, with a bit of colour at t'edge. Head is sudsy beige, retaining a finger of foam. Lace is stunningly thick. Looks fantastic.
Smells smoky. Peaty, earthy and pleasant. Some dark spice and dark fruit notes. Touch of hops maybe. Pretty pleasant.
Taste is meaty, chewy with the smokiness. Bacon and a mild slow-roast beef character to it, BBQ sauce and earthy tarry character. Some hop notes late which take on a bizarre, but bizarrely pleasant, flavour. Kind of gooey chocolate fondant with mandarin, sultanas and a crispy bacon edge. Truly odd, but oddly beautiful.
Foamy mouthfeel; body has a good presence but not too thick; pretty good.
Wonderfully appealing and idiosyncratic beer. The hops and specific earthy smoke character should be mortal enemies but here they make a substantial friendship with benefits. They're having dirty illicit sex in my mouth and I don't mind.
Pours a dark coffee colour, nice and dark throughout. Head is beige, foamy, medium retention. Not a bad-looking beer.
Sweet grain on the nose - lots of chocolate, with plenty of hops for good measure. Mostly US style with citric and resins dominating. Touch of coriander as well. Smells pretty nice.
Taste leans more to the dark than the IPA. Spicy espresso with lots of roast towards the back. Grainy as well, with caramel sweetness complementing the dark bitter chocolate and coffee notes. Touch of spice. Could use more hopping, but still decent.
Thin body, a bit fizzy, maybe a touch boozey on the back but not bad.
So in the 'overall score' field, I have written in a different pen colour "3.5" followed by the comment "I have no recollection of what I thought of this beer?"
Conclusive review over.
60 / 100
Pours a dark brown colour, clear with beige head of sparsely webbed bubbles. Nice colour; not bad otherwise.
Smells citric, tangy. Quite fruity with a touch of apple but plenty of lemon/lime verging on bitter pithiness. Touch of cocoa and roast. Not bad.
Taste is more roasty, and a bit staid. Cocoa and chocolate not-quite-sweetness on the front that gets bitter, slightly resinous but mostly just roasty on the back. Hint of citric hops but could use more cut-through, it just tastes like a porter. Not bad but not ideal for the style.
Decent body, has a touch of texture. Not bad.
Not quite enough IPA. Tastes like a somewhat bitter porter.
71 / 100
Pours a brown colour, bit pale up to the edge but that's fine for the style. Beige head, dense and creamy and looks gorgeous. Whole thing looks gorgeous.
Smells grainy upfront with a touch of chestnut. Caramel sweetness as well. Then develops a nice fruity NZ hop note - tangy with passionfruit and pineapple predominating. Strong malty base: nice.
Sweet and nutty caramel upfront plus a touch of coconut. Develops tangy NZ hop notes towards the back with passionfruit and a tisane character. Malty, with a big melange of other flavours layered on top of it. Intense but very enjoyable.
Body is full, has a sharp booze heat on the back which is not ideal. Otherwise fine.
Hugely complex; maybe too much so? Has a lot going on and I feel it could be reined in a bit.
Pours a dark brown colour with a touch of sediment cloud. Head is beige, foamy and retaining well. Looks good.
Smells quite nice. NZ hops abound, quite tangy with tropical passionfruit/pineapple notes. Some chocolate grain in there as well and a hint of bourbon. The oak character itself is not really present, however. Which is a shame.
Taste is quite boozy. Oak is present here, vanilla and sweet with notes of bourbon and a sugary rum character as well. Some spice notes on the back: coriander, pepper and aniseed, slight roastiness but then the hops aren't really noticeable. In fact not a whole lot of flavour beyond booze/barrel. This is not a terrible thing though.
Decent body, touch of warming alcohol as it goes down.
Some IBA characters but not quite enough cohesion. Bit boozy.
62 / 100
Dark chocolate grain colour. Head is beige, with a yellow tinge to it. Swilling promotes heavy head health. Lace is a little less sticky than I would expect, but still all good.
Smells sweet, with some peppery rye, chocolate, vanilla and nutty notes. Grainy, just slightly toasty. Sweet and a little dusty, with some richer, bitter notes. Not bad.
Taste is roasty, yeah surprisingly bitter. Lots of cocoa-rich chocolate and a surprising amount of resinous hop adding to that bitter back palate. Midway is disappointingly empty after a decent sweetness, and as a bridge between that and a bold, bitter finish. Yeah, I feel the body's a bit lacking, so the middle just has a hole in the middle of your heart, like life without Jesus. I quite like the piquancy of the hop and roast bitter back, it's quite enlivening, but there's definitely something missing here (possibly Jesus?)
Decent enough drop, but there's definitely places where it could be polished up and just bolstered. Decent front, interesting back, everything else absent.
74 / 100
375ml green caged and corked bottle. Purchased a long time ago from the brewery. So long ago that I forgot what a great annoyance it is to try to remove the black plastic corks from the Abstrakt series. Bottle #2297 of 9829, supposedly.
Pours a deep magenta-tinged black brown—completely flat and still and looking more like wine or tamarind extract than beer. Body definitely has some weight to it, as you'd want from a beer this big, but otherwise it looks lifeless.
Nose is interesting. Did I mention tamarind before? I did, and possibly because the aroma was already noticeable here. Slight sweet-sour character, fruity but dark and with a lot of oak coming through. This mingles with deep high-cacao chocolate and vinous tones that accentuate the oak. There's also something a little salty, medicinal, fishy or sulphurous in this one, possibly something that would have blown off had there been any carbonation. Still, it's hard to deny that there's a great deal of complexity to it.
Palate is actually a lot different to what I was expecting. It's actually a rather light entry, thin and a little fruity, with berries coming through prominently. This develops into a dustier, darker note towards the back, with some twinges of dark malt. This provides a little bitterness, but it doesn't ever get dry or ashy. Instead, it stays quite light with the fruit, accentuating that wine-like quality. The back also helps this illusion, with aftertones of oak, and a mild, breathy alcohol heat that mimics the slight astringency you'd get from something like an aged shiraz.
I wonder just a little bit if this isn't another perception-bending effort like the AB:06 Blonde Stout. So much of this beer suggests a sort of parody or emulation of an oaked red wine. It's not quite the same, of course, but it's better if you think of it this way. At least then, the total lack of carbonation makes sense.
22oz bomber purchased from WhichCraft in Austin, TX. Brought back to Australia where I shared it with Sam and Rich during a brewday.
Pours a decent muddy brown-black colour, with a lighter, filtered-coffee colour at the edges. Body is quite light and fluid. Head is a fine mesh of beige that rings the glass and leaves some spotty, leopard-skin lacing. Looks decent enough without genuinely exciting me.
Nose is pleasant, with a nuttiness from the malt being the predominant character. This gives a little roastedness without too much true darkness or char. Hops are something of an afterthought, giving a mild green, piney character that sings through—it's certainly too hop-forward to be a porter or a dark brown ale, but it's certainly less hoppy in the aroma than many other IBAs.
Taste is actually quite hoppy, in that the bitterness from the hops is pronounced, and comes though quite strongly right from the start. This mingles with the darker malt characters to give the suggestion of true, roasted, bitter char. On the back, the hops open out a little, giving a lingering aftertaste of fruit—this is, however, after they've dumped their load of bitterness, which clings long after the rest of the palate is gone.
Feel is solid, and provides some cushioning the help bring through some of the sweeter malt notes.
Overall, it's solid enough without being a particularly stellar example of the style. The roast is a little too prominent, and the bitterness is genuinely dialled up pretty high. That made it more difficult to drink than it might otherwise have been.
69 / 100
22oz brown bomber purchased from Southwest Parkway Market in Austin, TX.
Pours a deep ruby red, although genuinely black if you don't hold it to the light, with a fluid, rather thin body. Head is a wonderful thing—a rich, pocked, rocky mass of beige that leaves magnificent clumping rings of lace. Carbonation isn't noticeable, but it's done its work already in promoting that wonderful head. Looks a treat.
Nose is quite pleasant. Bright clean hops balanced by a smooth sweetness from the malt that almost gives a slight twinge of vanilla. Hops give a little fruit, perhaps a little underripe banana and kiwifruit, although there is a quality to the malt that drags this down—it's even perhaps the sweetness, which stops it from being as expressive in hoppiness as it might otherwise have been. Still pretty decent though.
Taste is also pretty decent. Firm bitterness from the hops balances that structured malt. This is built to have some complexities of flavour—much more so than you'd get in a regular IPA, so I respect it in an IBA. Above the vanilla and sweetness there's some roast and even a suggestion of smoke. The hops actually take something of a backseat, but they're there, providing the sharpness to complement the malt. It's pretty solid.
Feel is quite light. It's not bad for this style.
Overall, it's a very solid brew. It looked better than it ended up being in total, but there's still pleasant things to it. I particularly like the malt structure of the palate—it was better than a lot of IBAs who just try to make an IPA that looks dark. In this one, the colour has purpose as well.
73 / 100
On tap at the Local Taphouse.
Very dark brown, just colour at the edge. Head is beige, almost crema coloured. Fluffy with big bubbles at the top, sinking slowly. Nice lace.
Smells like fresh mint. Some faint traces of chocolate malt behind, maybe a mild touch of citrus, possibly lemongrass, but predominantly a herbal mint character. Pleasant but not what I expected.
Taste is more traditional IBA, not that it's a traditional style. Chocolate throughout, a somewhat bitter character midway before hops soften the roast, giving resinous and citric character and a touch of that herbal note as well. Finishes clean, pleasant, with mild chocolate biscuit character blended with a citric hang. Pretty nicely constructed IBA.
A little light, especially towards the back. Touch of carbonation, with some padding from the body. Not bad.
Quite a decent IBA. Surprisingly smooth, with a bit of an over-bitter hang but otherwise pleasant drinking.
Bottle bought by Jez at the Hive Bar in Erko.
Dark brown colour, cola with beige bubbly head, sparse and sinking gradually to A decent crown. Lace is uneven but good.
Smells like an IBA. Roasty and chocolatey malts underlie it all, but a big resinous hop aroma as well. Lots of hop oil, touch of apple and citrus but mostly just dank and moist woody hop notes. Touch of cinnamon. Bit of everything.
Touch of darkness throughout. Starts quite malty, gets spicy and actually somewhat harsh midway. Roasty, bitter with masses of resinous bitterness late-mid, some citric notes but just a big hop oil note mainly. Decent roast and some nice chocolate sweetness could be bigger. Not bad but has that dank note in some IPAs I don't like so much, and not hugely balanced between dark and hoppy.
Full, bit too much pull from the hops.
Decent; I like my IBAs a bit sweeter from the roast and with generally more fragrant IPA notes. Still, decent.
77 / 100
650ml brown bottle purchased from Leura Cellars.
Pours a deep, proper black colour, with a very frothy and thick head of pale beige that stays a little bit overdone all the way done: fed as it is by some fairly aggressive carbonation. Minimal patchy lacing. Body is fairly light. Overall, it looks decent—the colour is at least a good depth for an India Black Ale.
Nose is pleasant, if a little subdued—perhaps because it's not super, super fresh. Still, there's a pleasantly constructed broad hop character through it matched with a mild chocolate character that adds a hidden depth. Slightly peppery note comes through as well. Overall, pretty good.
Taste is very good: there's a really nicely spliced together roast and hop character that allows the hops to be sweet and the malt to be bitter—it's perhaps this switching of characters that allows them to meld so well. We get some fruity, aromatic characters from the hops, and a firm coffee-roast bitterness from the malt. Together they give off characters of concord grape and a fragrant nutty almond note as well. It's really very pleasant and flavoursome, but with lots of coherence, and firmly in the structure of an IBA.
Overall, this certainly is very good stuff. It may have taken until the palate for all of this to be quite that noticeable, but once it gets there, it makes you realise just how good it is. I particularly like that it doesn't use the darkness as a purely cosmetic element. There's plenty of roast here, and you want that in a good IBA—better yet, in this beer they've made it a coherent blend with the hops, and I really like that.
69 / 100
330ml bottle purchased from Slowbeer in Melbourne.
Pours a lovely deep brown colour, that looks dark enough to be black unless held to the light, when it takes on a burnished ruby hue. Head is excellent, forming a solid crest of creamy beige that stays firm and full most of the way down. Lacing forms in big, solid sheets. Overall, it has so many of the elements very right. It looks really great.
Nose is pleasant without being superb, or particularly exciting. Solid malty basis laced with a pleasant concoction of hop aromas, giving a little dark fruit and some pithier citrus characters, including some tangerine. Oddly enough, the hops seem to become more prominent as it warms, tending a little towards the dustier, more herbal end of things. All up, it's good, even if it doesn't really push the envelope.
Taste is also pretty solid, and surprisingly dry given the ABV. Indeed, there's a lack of weight on the back that allows both the booze and the hop bitterness to come through, and these do make the palate a little harsh. Still, there's some pleasant toasted malt characters around the side to provide some direction in the beer, and a bit of that pithy mandarine flavour on the front.
Feel is light—it's both this and the lack of sweetness on the back that make it feel a bit intense later on.
Overall, there's plenty of good stuff in this beer. It's something of a shame that the elements combine in such a way that it's a bit difficult to drink more than one. I'll admit that by the end of the glass, I was feeling a bit of fatigue.
61 / 100
On tap at Bitter Phew.
Pours a dark brown coffee colour, nice beige head. Dense foam. Sticks around and leaves lovely sheet of lace behind. Looks very nice.
Smells potent; sweet and roasty. Fairly chocolatey with a funny medicine character; sour cherry and sarsparilla. Licorice too. Could definitely use more hops for the style. Otherwise pleasant.
Taste is spicy, mediciney. Definite sarsparilla character all over that; licorice with notes of cocoa-rich chocolate midway, then all aniseedy and root beery on the back. Note of medicine, toucb of nutmeg and vanilla. Quite savoury; very odd and not what I expect from the style but there's some merit here.
Smooth, stouty. Could use a bit more bite, again for the style I want more. Nice texture though, as a beer.
Decent beer; certainly odd though, and just really deficient on hops for an IBA.
83 / 100
750ml heavy-duty dark green bottle, number 27/50 from the original batch brewed at Hargreaves Hill Brewery by Denise from Moylan's and Kjetil from Nøgne Ø for Good Beer Week 2012. I was fortunate enough to get a ticket to the brewday event, so I witnessed the beer being brewed. I tried it on-tap early when it was really quite astringent and too young. I felt like enough time had passed to crack open my single bottle.
Pours a lovely deep brown colour, with a good fine weight to the body. Head is a silky cap of off-white, almost creamy, and it leaves incredibly good lace as it goes down, even as the head becomes pocked with larger bubbles. Lovely fine carbonation. Looks very good.
Nose is very good, especially for 2 years old. The Aussie hops still come through remarkably well, giving it a sweet fruit note mingled with some more peppery herbal tones. Underneath this, the malt is robust, but subdued, providing some very nice sweetness that has some rounder, browner tones to it. I like it a lot.
Taste has a pithy lemon and grapefruit bite to it through the centre, but the roast has subdued a lot since I first tried it, and it's much the better for it. Here, it just provides a bit of structure and background—some brown bread, a little toastiness and some sweetness that makes the beer more coherent as a whole. The hops are very nice, though, and really drive it. The fruitiness is still here as an effervescent aromatic quality, but the sweetness of the beer is still based on the malt. It's very nice stuff.
Feel is smooth and solid. It's a really good basis for the rest of the beer.
Overall, I'm really impressed. This has integrated so well since it was first brewed. This is now a genuinely exceptional beer. Smooth, drinkable and very, very flavoursome. Better yet, the balance is here now, where it wasn't when it was young. This is a truly fully-formed beer, and I have to say an exceptional example of the style. I'm only sad that I'll never drink another bottle of it.
75 / 100
Somewhere between Belgian IPA, Rye IPA and India Black Ale falls this beer, an IBA brewed with rye and fermented with a Belgian ale yeast. Tried on-tap at GABS 2014 in Melbourne.
Pours a dark brown colour, golden at the corners with some mild hazing through the body. Solid weight behind it, that allows some fine static carbonation when tilted. Head is a creamy beige that settles firm and fine, leaving solid lacing. Looks very nice.
Nose is great. Toasty overtones, with solid, fragrant hops behind it. A little jammy sweetness comes through as well very nicely. The roast and the hop characters work together really well.
Clean on the front palate with a firm, malty basis. This is smooth throughout and lays down a foundation for the other characters. Some organic bitterness comes through on the mid palate, while some tannins come through towards the back. Clear aftertaste with a light linger of high-cocoa chocolate. Feel is very smooth.
It's really very nice all up. Overall, it perhaps doesn't quite match its promise, but it's a really very solid IBA in any case, and there's a lot to enjoy in it.
72 / 100
A collaboration between Mountain Goat and specialty hot chocolate makers Mork made for GABS 2014 in Melbourne, which is where I tried it on-tap.
Pours a deep dark amber hue, clear in the body but solidly weighted. Head is pretty minimal, just forming a few bubbles of off-white that disappear pretty quickly leaving no lace. The beer also looks uncarbonated it's so still in the glass. Hmm.
Immediately after the pour, the spicy melange gave an aroma very much like a south-east asian curry. Chilli and coriander prickled early, but these settle into the more expected jaffa note of citrus and chocolate. Eventually, as things die out a little it even becomes rather mild.
Taste is better though. Plenty of jaffa chocolate on entry before those asian spice characters come through again: chilli, coriander, even a whiff of fermented fish sauce before a solid dose of aromatic galangal on the back. As this settles out we reprise the jaffa motif, which lingers through the aftertaste. Feel is nice and smooth, it works well with the flavours.
Yeah, I like it. Overall it's very interesting with oddities that give it its complexity. I like that the Mountain Goat guys pushed the envelope for this beer.
76 / 100
12oz stubby brown bottle that looks like something from the 1970s. Purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA.
Pours a deep, opaque brown colour, with oily edges. Body is fine, but with a bit of weight behind it. Head is a fine, luscious film of pale chocolate. Lcing forms in minute but intricate specks. Carbonation forms in fine streams. Looks pretty good.
Nose is very good. Lovely mixture of toasty malt and green hop crispness, with overtones of rosewater, marshmallow and vanilla pods. The fragrance of the hops isn't so much an obvious character in itself, it just couples with the body and the malt to create perturbations in the aroma: it takes it in weird directions, and it's really rather lovely.
Taste is also good. Smooth and clean for the most part, it allows the characters to show themselves unburdened by too much weight or sweetness on the palate. Clean, slightly herbal, almost noble bitterness rides through the centre, while the roast characters allow a little subtle char to appear on the back. Some aniseed comes through as well, but some of those rounder fragrant notes (the marshmallow, the rosewater) are sadly absent. It's still very nice though—well constructed, and nicely balanced.
Feel is also good: it's a bit lighter than it might ideally be, but this allows the flavours to come out a little bit more openly, rather than clothing them in richness. It works fine.
Overall, yeah, this is a tasty beer. I like the combination—it's done well.
33cl brown bottle purchased from Domus Birrae in Rome.
Pours a murky ruby-dark brown colour, made darker by the haze, with a very frothy, coarse head of beige that settles out and persists as a frothy mesh across the top. Frothy, sudsy lacing. Body looks pretty light overall. But it's not bad.
Nose is solid enough: clean fruity hops giving some citric tones and a bit of sweetness, while the malt provides a more savoury, wholesome basis. No hint of roast or anything darker, but the malt is certainly more pronounced than you'd get in an APA or IPA. Smells pretty decent.
Taste is also solid. Clean orange-citrus hop presence through the centre of the palate, some subtle malt structure underneath to cushion it. There's a slightly metallic or mineral character towards the back, black rock salt or iodine perhaps. Malt drops out substantially towards the finish, leaving the back pretty empty, but it finishes clean at least.
Feel is decent: about middle-of-the-road for what you'd expect given everything else.
Overall. Yeah. It's solid. Not great, but definitely solid. Definitely something I'm pleased to have tried. It doesn't really do anything that exciting, or even anything that you probably haven't seen a bunch of times before, but it's certainly a decently made IBA.
33cl brown bottle purchased from Domus Birrae in Rome.
Pours a murky cola-brown with a fine head of beige that takes some coaxing to form. Fine specks of lace. Body is quite light. Carbonation looks a little lethargic, but it's fine at least. Looks okay, without really being inspiring.
Nose is pleasant enough: malt and roast (if there is any) are extremely muted, meaning the hops are the main event. And they're pretty good in a generic way: clean, mild citrus and a touch of resin. It's not particularly powerful, but it's fresh and pleasant at least.
Taste is also good, but again the malt is very weak, meaning that it tastes a little like a thin hop-driven IPA. On the front, it's all pithy citrus, towards the back it turns more towards pine-resin, and by now there's a slight nuttiness from the malt, muted, but providing a different layer to bounce the hops off.
Feel is very light. It's not bad, but surprising for a beer weighing in at 7.5% ABV.
Overall, it's pretty drinkable, and without much that it asks of you. In some ways, it's a by-the-books IBA, and it lacks any intense creativity or insight, but it's still pretty pleasant to drink.
Tried on-tap at Ma Che Siete Venuti A Fà in Rome
Pours a deep brown hue with good clarity in the body. Some heft to it, but also maintaining a fineness. Head is frothy and pillowy and the colour of good vanilla icecream. Lace is streaky and solid. Looks good.
Nose is a nice mixture. Faint toastiness matched with appropriate hops to create that weird mélange. Some citrus and pine comes through, but deepened by the malt character present. Pretty strong too. It's good stuff.
Taste is a little bit disappointing by comparison, although there are good things about it. More of that pithy fruit comes through on the mid-palate, on a pillow of empty roasted characters. Entry is light and a little weak: toastiness comes through, but without any body to back it up. Chlorine bitterness noticeable on the back, and very light weight. Finish is dull with some lingering bitterness.
Overall, it's fairly drinkable, but it's missing integration between the characters. Often the complexity of the competing characters in a good IBA can create this sense of synergy, and this doesn't quite reach that.
86 / 100
33cl brown bottle purchased from Cave à Bulles in Paris.
Pours a deep dark brown, fine but solid in the body. Head is a gorgeously creamy crest of pale beige that leaves monumental lacing. Carbonation is tiny and powdery, although it streams quickly through the body. Overall, though, it's a damn good-looking beer.
Nose is very nice: very solid hop fragrance from the West Coast IPA School of Fucktons of Hops. Bright, citric, juicy with resin, touches of green pepper. This is balanced though, by a really nicely crafted brown malt backbone, that gives it a thick sweetness and a roasted roughness to set up a layer of complexity underneath. It's really very nice indeed.
Taste is also extremely good. Beautifully balanced combination of hops and roasty malt that combine to give that glorious melange of dark and bright that only the best IBAs achieve. It's nutty and wholesome, but with citric and fruit overtones that confuse your perceptions even as they reconfigure them. Bitterness is perfectly weighted—it cuts through the malt, but doesn't linger too much, which would make the beer ashy with the roasted overtones.
Feel is a little weak: it makes it seem a little lighter, which does help with the balance, but I think it could go a couple of notches higher and be even better.
Overall, though, this is superb stuff. This is just about one of the best IBAs I've had from anywhere in the world. The balance is just right, the flavours so contrasting but so complementary, and the drinkability is off-the-chart, especially given it weighs in at 8% ABV. Highly recommended—one of the must-try beers from the French craft scene.
77 / 100
330ml brown bottle purchased from Cave à Bulles in Paris. Tried Mont Salève on the recommendation of a friend of a friend when looking for French craft beer.
Pours a Decent deep brown colour, with some clarity despite the depth of colour. Head forms a very fine film of pale beige that leaves good lacing. Body looks surprisingly firm given that the beer is only 3.5% ABV. Overall, it looks pretty good.
Nose is great. Nice toasty brown malt characters with a depth of flavour beyond just being "dark". On top of this is a fairly mild, but noticeable hop presence, bringing a little dark chocolate orange note to the beer. The malt is the main event though, and it's really nicely crafted.
Taste is also very good, especially given the low ABV of the brew. There's a depth of roasted character, and a persistent sweetness and body which makes the beer go on. Lingering hop characters give a slight plasticky hint, along with a little vegemite, anise and carob. Again, it's really well crafted, and all the flavours are really nicely balanced against one another.
Feel is remarkably smooth given its weight. It works well with the flavours of the beer.
Just like I'm impressed when a huge ABV beer doesn't feel huge, I'm impressed when a relatively light beer doesn't feel light. There's stacks of character and body to this brew, all in a thoroughly sessionable and highly drinkable package. This is cracking stuff.
75 / 100
Tried on-tap at the Local Taphouse in Darlinghurst.
Pours a black-ruby colour with a fair amount of clarity to it. Head is just a ring of bubble pale bubbles around the glass. Body is fairly light, some speckled lacing. Looks decent enough.
Nose is great, full and sweet with plums, ripe dates and an underlying solidity like brown bread. Christmas cake comes out nicely, giving a doughy solidity to it. Very pleasant.
Tasty on the palate as well. Creamy, dark and nutty, with characters of praline and hazelnut. Slight salty, mineral sea character comes through as well towards the back, leaving the back just a touch empty. The darkness lingers like a suggestion of liquorice. Feel is pretty light, but has a nice substance to it.
Overall, this is really nice stuff. Plenty of flavour, nicely balanced with a good amount of interest too. Very happy.
61 / 100
330ml brown bottle purchased from Oak Barrel in Sydney by my brother-in-law.
Pours a solidly dark brown, and quite opaque. Head is fine and minimal, but pleasantly smooth and beige in hue. Lacing forms in faint streaks. Decent body and fine carbonation. Looks good.
Nose is also good. Toasty malt with a pleasing ring of hops that never really gets too overpowering. Some citrus and chocolate melds together to make a classic combination. Some sweetness gives a solid basis as well. It's very pleasant.
Taste is less good, because it doesn't keep these two parts in balance. Here the roast character becomes dominant, providing a rather strong dark bitterness to the beer. The hops are overwhelmed. Still, it has a lightness in its body which is nice enough, and prevents it from being mistaken for a stout or something else. I think it's decent, but missing the mark, and a little disappointing given the promising signs on the nose and in the appearance.
Overall, it's quite drinkable and even pretty tasty: it certainly has flavour. I wish it was just a bit better. It really could have been.
Pours a fairly brown colour rather than black, clear with medium cream-coloured head. Looks alright.
Smells roasty, with notes of chocolate, some very faint coffee, plus a sweet burnt sugar note as well. Whisper of some US hops at the back. Pretty nice.
Taste is very dry. Lots of roast that gets increasingly bitter with a decent coffee belt, some darker spice notes with star anise surfacing most noticeably. Not a big hop character on here which is a shame, but pretty decent palate overall.
Body is a little light on, and as a result carbonation a little more strongly felt than I'd like.
More black than APA, but decent enough beer.
57 / 100
Pours a dark coffee colour with some light showing through. Head is tan, dense and creamy. Looks pretty nice.
Smells... a little odd. Chocolate malt notes with a touch of roast and lots of US hop character - fruity and citric, but a touch of phenol as well. Odd.
Taste is not bad. Dark and vinous for the most part, with notes of red wine and clove vying for the mid-palate in particular. Quite phenolic on the back and a touch of roast overall. Not bad, but an odd blend between vinous and dark notes.
Thin body lets a touch of alcohol heat through, as well as a bit of carbonation.
Not a bad beer, but a bit muddled, and I'm not getting a lot of peat from it at all.
Pours a brown colour with cream-coloured head, sparsely webbed out and dissipating. Clear and a bit pale, but not bad.
Sweet dark malts upfront but lotza hops. Caramel/honey characters on the front and then a curious blend of US and NZ hop character, lemon and pine with some tropical fruitiness. Pleasant.
Taste is far more roasty, and lacking the hops the nose promised. Chocolate characters with a touch of rye spice and plenty of toasty warming characters on the back. Not quite bitter but spicy and hearty. Actually a very nice black ale but definitely lacking hops.
Decent mouthfeel - body is there to pad out carbonation so it's not really noticeable.
More black than IPA but sometimes I prefer it that way. Hops are in use on the aroma but the palate gives precedence to the roasted malts.
Pours a slightly pale brown colour, clear with creamy, foamy head. Retains quite nicely leaving some specks of lace behind. Looks good albeit paler than I expected.
Smells of banana, and... well, a bit of everything. There's caramel, dark pumpernickel bread, cinnamon, clove, and a touch of smoke. Yeah, lots of interest but lacking in coherent structure. I don't mind terribly though.
Taste goes down a similar route. Rye, sourdough grain coming through with some buttery notes, smoke and a touch of dry cinnamon. More banana towards the back that almost gets sour. Smoke, spice. Fair alcohol character as well. Not bad.
Full body, warming alcohol towards the back. Quite nice.
A little bit hot flavour wise, and a huge mix of flavours. At some point I'd like to see Doc do something really, really pedestrian, just to see how he goes.
56 / 100
Pours a brown colour with slight cloudiness. Pale cream-coloured head, webbed out sparsely and not really retaining or leaving any lacing behind. Bit listless.
Smells smokey, and meaty. Bit of sourdough-tinged malt and touches of spice but it's just all smoked meat otherwise. Nice, but not really black IPA character.
Fairly malty on the palate. Caramel, with again a touch of sourdough. Big smoke comes through almost immediately, meaty and billowing. Pleasant character again but no real IPA-ness, some hops on the back might have taken this in weird and potentially amazing directions.
Body is OK, but the carbonation comes through very strongly, almost sharply.
More of a marketing issue than anything else. Not a bad beer at all, but it's all smoke so should be sold as just a smoked beer. Putting IPA in the style name just doesn't help my perception of this at all. It's just not what it's sold as.
83 / 100
Pours a dark brown colour, clear throughout. Head is beige, bubbly and sparsely distributed with decent foam lacing left behind. Looks alright for style.
Smells a bit roasty, with a touch of licorice to the malt. Big blend of US and NZ hops add some contrast with citrus and passionfruit characters. A touch of spice as well. The hops are hugely refreshing for an otherwise dark aroma.
Chocolate upfront on the palate. Touch of honey as it descends into roasty back, but then a weird sideways turn with dry cinnamon and American hop characters. Touch of oak as well. Wow, gets better with every sip. It's so unassuming in many ways but ends up right smack bang in the middle of my flavour bullseye.
Decent body, goes down pretty smoothly. Yeah, nice.
Wow. Comes from nowhere but smacks your face with enjoyable flavours. What a great beer.
Pours a brown colour with slight red tinge. Beige foamy head. Sizeable bubbles but retains thick and chunky. Looks good.
Smells hoppy. Touch of chocolate malt but mostly NZ hop character, with some lemon dish detergent and passionfruit. Pleasant.
Taste is lacking in roast. Some caramel malt character with a touch of cinnamon on the front, but then mid-to-back is all hops. New Zealand mostly, with lots of pine, passionfruit and other fresh, tropical flavours. Nice hop character makes it a pleasant drop but would like more roast in my black IPA.
Touch of alcohol on there is inevitable, but body is pretty nice so it's all padded pretty well.
Bit of a booze note, and overall more IPA than black. I like it, though.
74 / 100
Tried at GABS 2013. Entered this review much later, as will all of my GABS reviews be.
Pours a brown colour, slightly cloudy with beige, foamy head. Retains OK. Looks quite nice.
Smell is oaky, with vanilla notes. Touch of dark caramel and cinnamon. Bit of dry, but sweet spice. Pleasant.
Taste is mildly chocolatey, with a slight hint of licorice and cinnamon. Oak is again dominant with vanilla notes. Pleasant, but maybe a little boozey-warm.
Decent body, slight tingle of carbonation, noticeable alcohol but not hot.
Very nice American style beer.
3 Ravens' beer for GABS 2013. I tried it on tap there in May, and am still catching up on entering reviews for the 100-and-something beers I managed to sample.
Pours a deep brown colour with good clarity to it. Body is fairly solid. Head forms a solid, creamy ridge of beige that leaves sheets of lacing. Looks good.
Mild grain characters on the nose provide a basis, before there's a shock of bright, orange-citrus hops to counteract it. Slight roast does come through which bounces off the hop character to give a suggestion of rubber. All up, it balances out to be fairly mild in weight, but the characters do provide some nice contrast for one another.
Light crisp entry on the palate leading to the hops coming in mid-way through. These give some weak orangeskin characters, relatively dry and clean for the most part. The roast comes in on the back, providing a pronounced toasty note and a faintly drawn hint of char. This disappears before the finish, leaving just a toasty grain note.
Feel is a little bit light: it could certainly survive a bit more heft.
It's pretty decent stuff: well made and nicely balanced. It's not crazy, and it certainly didn't stand out all that much at GABS. But standing out at GABS isn't necessarily a benchmark for a good beer. And this is certainly a good beer.
Pours a red-tinged dark brown. Nice beige head, webbed but sticky. Could be a bit darker but still nice.
Fruity on the nose. Banana, passionfruit, plenty of tropical notes. Bit of resin, but overall a bit light and almost stodgy. Needs more dark characters.
Taste is similar. Quite winter warmery with spice and dark fruit. Some banana, and a bit of rummy booze on the back. Not the best IBA I've had, a bit sweet and lacking roast characters.
Smooth texture, bit of hop pull and touch of booze on the back. Not bad.
To me the darker flavours are so integral to the success of a black ale. This seems more like an IPA that happens to look dark, and even then it's a bit flighty and fruity and lacking in gravitas. Can't say I love it.
Dark brown with dense beige head, sinks evenly with small bubbles around the edge. Looks nice.
Smells quite caramel malty. Big hint of vanilla. Some tangy hops, mildly citric but also slightly grassy. Smells intriguing and pleasant, not sure really how black IPA it is though.
Taste is very roasty and bitter. Lots of toasty, charry malt, a hint of black cherry in there, some leather and mint. Spicy, then herbal bitterness on the back. Big resiny oily hops that don't contribute much flavour, mostly just a bitter finish.
A bit of Carbonation fizz, dries up a little on the back. Could use more malt padding.
More of a hoppy porter, I'd like more hop flavour in a black IPA.
56 / 100
A "hoppy, peated, Belgian black" is the style attributed to this beer. Sure, let's see where this goes. Tried on-tap at the 2013 GABS festival in Melbourne.
Pours a roasted brown colour with some hazing, and a slightly gelatinous body. Head is solid and fine, mocha-hued, that leaves decent rings down the glass as lacing. No visible carbonation. Looks pretty good.
Nose is vinous initially with a sweetness like raisins that also somewhat suggests garbage sitting in the sun. More acidity (something I really didn't expect), grape juice and a faint, vague toasted character. Despite the weirdnesses, it's all pretty light.
Light rounded entry on the palate before the acidity comes through again, a musty fruit skin character. I don't get much in the way of hops, and certainly no peat-smoke. On the back the palate just drops out all together—further cementing this as a weak beer. Nothing on the aftertaste but a slight remembrance of roast and acid.
Feel is light and clean, but empty.
I'm not a fan. Mostly, it's just dry and dull, but the characters it does have tend towards unpleasantness. Not something I'd seek out again.
61 / 100
Tried on-tap at the 2013 GABS festival in Melbourne.
Pours a deep, dark brown colour, clear at the edges, but otherwise seemingly hazy. Head is a faint brown without much consistency to it. No visible lacing. Looks ok, but not much better.
Nose is also ok, but seemingly pretty generic for the style: faint, slightly sweet citric hop character above a slight toasted bread note. It's very light overall.
Mild grain entry to the palate leading to some weak mid-palate flavours of orange and flimsy grain. Some roasted characters on the back with a suggestion of ephemeral hops, but it's very watery and leaves almost nothing to linger.
Feel is light and crisp.
Overall, it's not bad, really. But it's only "drinkable", not "interesting", and is certainly one of the less flavoursome IBAs I've had.
74 / 100
Tried on-tap at the GABS festival in Melbourne during Good Beer Week.
Pours a deep brown colour, slightly hazed with a decent heft to the body. Head is a creamy beige, forming a solid film across the top and ringing lacing down the glass. Looks good.
Clean and bright on the nose. Orange zest comes through and a little fresh melon aromas. There's not much roast, but that's fine for me in an IBA—the nose is meant to confound the eyes.
Light clean brown malt on the entry, providing a pleasant basis for what's coming. Orange ramps up a little before some brighter hop characters coming through mid-palate. Clean and crisp, they blend nicely with the malt character. The back is dryer, with a pronounced bitterness, but maintaining that crispness and smoothness in balance.
The feel is just a little bit light, especially for 9.5%, but that does help in some sense, and to be honest, it must be harder to get such a light body in such a big beer.
And that's somewhat of the overarching theme of this beer. It's really surprisingly light and drinkable given its stats. This is at least partially because the flavours are so well melded together, but it's also probably just testament to what a good brewer is at the helm.
79 / 100
Had on-tap at GABS 2013 (erm, possibly 3 or 4 times), and also at the Terminus Hotel afterwards (and, erm, possibly more than one). In any case, I think it's fair to say that this beer is the cause of anything untoward I did on my final night in Melbourne. This review is from my first sampling of it. From notes.
This is an "extension" of their 2012 GABS beer Karma Citra, being an India Black Ale this time aged in French oak.
Pours a deep brown colour, with a reddish sheen shining through the clear body. Head is quite light, not unpleasantly so. Head forms a decent, solid ring around the glass, a foamy crema coloured cap. Lace forms in streams. Looks good.
Nose is pleasant, but a little muted, in that way that hops and oak can somewhat smooth each other out. Some slight pine aromas, a little citrus and some woody (rather than smooth) oak characters. It's nice enough, and about what you expect.
Taste is where the mixture of the oak and hops comes into its element, pleasant orange citrus characters mingle with the chocolate roast and vanilla cream from the oak to provide a mellow, rich and enticing whole. Light chocolate on the entry, with oak (playing vanilla this time) providing some smoothness. Then comes the hops providing orange overtones melding into a cleanness towards the back to balance the lovely, smooth malt and oak characters. It's silky in its flavour contours, leaving a lovely aftertaste that makes you want more (and more).
Feel is actually quite light, but maintains that smoothness—helped, no doubt, by the flavours, which are intrinsically so creamy and silky.
Overall, this is an outstanding drop. I actually wasn't expecting quite such an excellent beer, given it's just an adaptation of something existing. But they've not only managed to tap into that beer's goodness, they've crafted an interesting and unique brew in its own right. That'll teach me for doubting Feral.
71 / 100
Had on-tap at GABS 2013 in Melbourne: a smoked India Black Ale.
Pours a hazy brown colour, very light in the body and looking rather dead. Head forms a very minimal sheen of whitish dullness on the top that leaves just a few specks of lace. No carbonation. It looks a little unappetising.
Nose is pleasant: smoke and piney resin coming through. Bacon bits mingled with eucalyptus. That's pretty much it, in fact it feels a little one-dimensional overall, but I find it pleasant enough.
Light smoky entry on the palate. A little bit light with a touch of water. Mid-palate has some spice, almost a weizeny phenolic character, before the hops get more of a look-in at the back: some spick, resin and a bitterness that drops out before the aftertaste. On the finish is a pleasant heady sweet bacon smoke character.
Feel is a tad too light.
Overall, though, this is good stuff. It's interesting, it develops in the mouth, and it has some pleasantly balanced flavours. I'm a fan.
79 / 100
On-tap at GABS 2013 in Melbourne. The full style is "Barrel-Aged Black Belgian IPA" (aged in Scotch Whiskey barrels). I'm sure they'd have loved to add a few more adjectives to the mix there as well.
Pours a deep brown colour, almost opaque in the glass, with a solid body that hides its carbonation. Head forms a full, frothy yellow-beige crest, leaving solid, chunky sheets of lace as it goes down. Looks pretty good.
Brown malt characters on the nose, along with a slew of aromas from the barrel: oak, vine and a touch of booze, and a fragrant organic sweetness, like weetbix topped with brown sugar and banana. Some vanilla comes through as well. It's lovely.
Vanilla prominent on the front of the palate too, along with the first suggestion of booze, perhaps giving a slight cherry bite. Roasty, darker malts come through later, more of the brown malt note and a toasty, savoury essence. On the back, there's a little astringency: phenolics and pepper. It's not until the very finish that there's much input from the hops, with a clinging bitterness cleaning it all out right near the aftertaste.
Feel is smooth but relatively light. It's good.
Overall, this is a top drop. Complex, but mellow and drinkable. It maybe goes close to having too much going on: if that's your thing, you're going to love this.
81 / 100
Bottle gifted to me by @lacqueredmouse. Enjoyed from a pilsener glass on my mother's patio.
Pours a dark mahogany colour, with murky clarity. Head is very generous: fluffy and dense with gorgeous lace, beige in colour. Looks scrumptious, maybe could be a shade darker though.
Smells hoppy, but not a lot. Fair grassy and slight piney, citric edge. Most of it is roasty though with a slight coffee edge, bit of cocoa. Quite a nice mix, would like more aromatic hops though.
Lots of dark malt upfront, plenty of roast, chocolate, and a touch of charry bitterness. Hops play a nice complementary role towards the back; resinous, almost salty, but quite fresh. Really pleasant drinking, not too aggressively hopped but a nice balance.
Little bit dry, with quite a pull from the hops in spite of their mellow flavour. Pleasant texture otherwise.
Really lovely IBA. Superb example of the style, just artistically put together. You've surprised me with this one, BrewDog. There's almost a subtlety here with the amount of finesse used. Love it.
Pours a dark, dark brown with nice dark beige head, smooth and creamy. Lace is smooth and clingy. Looks great.
Smells sweet and pleasant. Mostly chocolate with caramel and vanilla sweetness. Pleasant milk stouty notes, not overly sweet but plenty of enjoyable mellifluous chars. I assume the hops are maybe there as a balancing act for the sweetness, but I expect more hop aroma for the style. Very nice smell but lacking the IP bits of the IPA.
More roasty and stouty on the palate, quite burnt and bitter at times, with quite a spicy character, black pepper and nicely roasted coffee beans. Bit dry, with a slight watery note late-mid before a bitter chocolatey finish. Portery more than anything, doesn't quite have the hop character of a black IPA. But decent body, decent flavour, just seems more like a nicely balanced American porter.
Not a bad beer, decent flavours; incongruity with marketing shouldn't really diminish the beer's intrinsic enjoyment. After dinner sort of stuff with decent dark spicy notes.
650ml bottle purchased from BevMo in Sunnyvale, CA. I take it this is either new, or is seasonal in a season I've never been in California before, because I can't believe I've not had it otherwise.
Pours a deep dark nondescript colour somewhere between brown and black, with tinges of ruby at the edges. Head is wonderful: fine, mild and creamy in colour, pocked with bubbles that give it a liveliness. Body looks pretty tame for 8.1% ABV: quite light and very fast moving. We'll see how it holds up.
Nose is lively at first, with a strong, pungent citrus aroma permeating everything. This settles down once it's been swirled a bit, with the volatiles dematerialising quickly. There's still a dusky orange character, backed up with some faint nutty grain characters, and perhaps a little spiciness, although it may just be that zesty orange rind character. It was powerful when first opened, after it settles, it's decent, but it's not wowing me.
Taste is again, decent enough, but a little by the book. Mild entry with some hop presence running from front to back: but it's generic hoppiness, some bitterness, some citric bite and it doesn't develop as it goes along. In the end the hops just drop out, leaving an empty graininess standing awkwardly by itself. I think it's a little embarrassed.
Feel is fine. Light, but with some support.
Overall, it's a decent beer, really. But I was expecting something so much better from Bear Republic. Really, this should be setting the standard for a West Coast IBA, but it really feels like this is a phoned-in effort, and much more of a follower than a leader.
Pours a dark brown colour, beige head; dense and creamy. Lace is slightly speckled. Pretty decent.
Lightly roasty on the nose; coffee with walnuts, beech wood and vanilla. Some hops on the back - herbs and spice and citrus. Very pleasant characters.
Taste is quite dark and bitter. Decent, malty front, but back is all dank and bitter with coffee, liquorice and tobacco. Hints of hops come through but it is mostly just darkness and seems a little middle of the road as far as dark beers go.
Average body, drinks actually quite hoppy with a bit of a pull, surprisingly.
Decent drop, but maybe a little too young. Makes me very happy that my brother has an enormous stash of this beer and I can revisit and edit this review as the beer ages. It will just keep getting better.
72 / 100
Labelled "2 of 3", so following on from my exploration of "1 of 3" Yeastie Boys' Motueka Raven is Liberty's entry in the series, this time brewed with US Yakima hops. 330ml bottle purchased from Slowbeer in Melbourne.
Pours a deep dark brown, even when held to the light it holds more brown than ruby. Much less carbonated than the Yeasties Raven, with a fine film of beige that froths on pour and settles down to a thin, silky topcoat. Lacing is specked and spotted. Carbonation is present, however, and forms in a fine spread when the glass is tilted. Looks pretty good.
Nose is fresh and bright, layered with deep, sweet darkness. I get fresh, underripe oranges mingled with some coconut, chocolate and powdered sugar. Hints of faint, fragrant, fruity coffee beans, and a little crushed herb. Very pleasant stuff.
Taste is good, but a little muted. Some sweet fragrant fruity hops on the front that settle down into a restrained but somewhat noticeable bitterness; this dances away like orange aspirin dissolving slowly. Slight malt tones, but surprisingly little: indeed there's not a whole heap suggesting the colour in the flavour. And perhaps all you get is what remains from the aroma. I think it could use a little bit more roast and body.
Feel is smooth and light—in fact, the texture and carbonation might be the most striking difference between the two Ravens.
Overall, I think this one has a slight edge over the Motueka one. The body and texture, the more supple hop characters on the palate, and the lovely mingling of flavours on the nose really make this seem a little more sophisticated. It's good stuff.
62 / 100
No spiel on the label of this one, just the familiar Raven motif and both Yeastie Boys and Liberty's logos emblazoned on the front. "3 of 3", and so it shall be for me. 330ml bottle purchased from Slowbeer in Melbourne.
Surprisingly, pours quite similarly to the other two in the series: quite light bodied, with a fine, but not particularly frothy head of beige. The lacing is a little bit less intense, and there may be a little extra heft to the body, but not enough to be noticeable. Colour is a deep dark brown: much akin to the Yakima Raven, whereas the Motueka had a hint of ruby red to it. Still, it looks pretty good, I'm just surprised how light and approachable it looks.
Nose is malty and sweet. Holy crap, where are you hops? Seriously, it almost smells like unfermented wort it's so sweet. Biscuits, caramel, perhaps a mild suggestion of roast, but not much, sugar tending towards tar. There's something nostalgic about it for me: I think it might remind me of some of the big Belgians I had early in my beer exploration, ones that seemed super sweet in comparison to Tooheys Extra Dry. But yeah, this is malty, and malty not matched by hops.
Taste is actually quite similar: big malt characters dominate, without the roast you'd get in a big 10% ABV stout, and without the hop bitterness I was expecting here. Instead, it is really still quite sweet, with the only balance being a suggestion of booze on the back: it mingles oddly with the malt to give a vague nutty, almond/marzipan kind of character. Some copper or metallic notes on the finish: this may be the lingering ghosts of the hops that were.
Feel is really quite shockingly light though, it makes it feel like a much lighter, much more approachable strength.
I'm really surprised at this. In many ways. It's much less hoppy than I was expecting, much to its detriment. It's huge, but doesn't feel huge. It's extremely sweet, but missing everything that a big sweet beer needs to balance it.
Whatever happens, this is easily my least favourite of the three. While the Motueka and Yakima Ravens had balance and structure, this seems somewhat overblown—worse yet, it really doesn't seem to fit in the sequence with the other two. Sure, beef it up to almost double the strength, but give us a commensurate bump in the hops as well.
69 / 100
330ml bottle purchased from Leura Cellars. I was very pleased to find it, as I had a bottle of the Yakima Raven and the nevaRRaven to match it with. This one was marked "1 of 3", so I figured it was the right one to start with.
Pours a deep brown, dark enough, with some reddish tinges when held to the light. Head is massively frothy at the start, settling down to a centimetre or so of fully frothed beige foam. Lacing is pretty persistent. Minimal carbonation is visible. Looks decent enough.
Nose is soft with that pleasant malt/hop balance that a good IBA can engender. However, the fragrance of the hops is actually pretty generic: I would have thought that you could have gotten something quite clear and singing out of the Motueka. Still, there's some pleasant green, slightly floral, slightly herbal notes, balanced with a touch of musty roast character to create a subtle counterpoint. It's a solid, but not particularly exciting IBA nose.
Taste is similar. Decent, pleasantly balanced dark malt with some fresh but pretty generic hop flavours. Some roast around the edges and towards the back, and a tingle of bitterness, that never goes too far or produces too much bitterness. Instead, it's a slightly herbal, almost minty character to blend with the malt. It's pleasant enough, but again, it feels like a pretty straight down the line IBA—Motueka surely can do more than this.
Feel is smooth and light, with a surprising tingle of aggressive carbonation on the back.
Overall, this is good enough, but I hope the Ravens are up from here. This was solid and forgettable, pretty much par-for-the-course when it comes to IBA. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, but I think Yeastie Boys can do better.
72 / 100
Pours a dark murky colour with fair red edge. Dense, tan head, tightly packed with some specks of lace. A little pale for the style, but pretty nice otherwise.
Massive cascade hop aroma. Citric, hugely resiny with pine bark, cedar and lemon zest. Sharp spicy notes underlying, very pleasant, but maybe a little overboard on the hops, could have used more malt backbone.
Similar characters on the palate, but nuttier, where the darker roasty malts come into their own. Resiny hops dictate the score for the most part, but there's raisins, toffee and chocolate in here as well. Dry and citric on the back, with a touch of peanut brittle. Nice balance, but it actually could use a little more hop sharpness to cut through.
A bit empty in the middle of the mouth. Stab of hop oil late-mid but otherwise a little thin.
Nice drop; has all the right flavours but just a little off-balance at times.
Pours a dark-brown colour, quite pale really. Maybe a slight cloud is visible but otherwise clear. Head is pale beige, nice and foamy and sticking around fairly well. Certainly not black but otherwise nice.
Nose is a very pleasant IBA nose. Nice underlying malt, not very roasty but rich and full-bodied, and overlying all is lots of delicate fresh hops. US mostly, with citric and tangy pine qualities. Quite lovely, really.
Taste has a bit more on the roasty side, with a touch of slightly sour under-roasted coffee upfront. Midway switches to the hop side, all US hops with citric and slightly resinous bitterness. Not quite enough though, it doesn't really balance or capture the best of both camps.
A little dry on the texture, good enough body though.
Not a bad brew, a little bitter and not quite enough early hopping for me to really sit up and take notice.
77 / 100
Pours a very dark brown colour but there's colour noticeable because you can see a slight cloud in it. Tan head, medium retention. Could be darker, but I'm not complaining.
Loads of hops on the nose. Bit from the US and bit from NZ or maybe Australia, tangy and fruity but a good pine resin character to it as well. Could use more roast to balance it out as a Black IPA, but still lovely.
Dark roasty malt at the front that's quite pleasant but doesn't last long before the hops take over. Mostly US in this case, big citric character with slightly resnious finish. The oak comes through on the back and dries it up a bit with woody notes. Very nice indeed.
A bit dry at the end, a bit of carbonation but well padded by the decent body. Nice.
It's the kind of beer that I like, so I'm always going to be pre-disposed towards it, but I just think it's been attacked well; lots of flavour but a steady hand behind the rudder.
71 / 100
On-tap during the Doctor's Orders takeover of the Union Hotel in Newtown during Sydney Craft Beer Week. The Elixir version of the Prescription 12 was aged in oak, otherwise, it's the same beer.
Pours a dull, oily black colour with huge sediment in the glass. Very thickly hazed, and very thick in the glass. It's oily: liquid only by name. Head is a mild taupe colour, with bubbly, aerated consistency. Not much lace and no visible carbonation.
Nose is boozy like anything. Rum, sugar and toffee come through along with a small amount of oak, but the oak lends no supple, woody smoothness: it's rush alcohol all the way. Slight coffee characters come through as well, but it's almost a harshness. Dark and brutal. Powerful, at least.
Taste starts with a spicy booziness along with some cheesy notes and a bit of greenness. Middle palate allows the oak to come through, but lingers with a subtle hint of seaweed, water-logged wood and moss. The finish has more traditional oak characters, wood, wine and a dry yeasty finish. It's very, very weird, and it's a stack of really disparate and slightly anarchic characters all working against each other.
Feel is light, but gooey. Almost no carbonation at all.
I'm not convinced it works, overall, but it's crazy at least. Unfortunately, it feels a little bit like it's just throwing a whole bunch of shit together without caring how the beer ends up at the end. What you end up with is pretty messy and unfocused, as though it doesn't really know what it wants to be.
Bottle purchased from Beer Cartel by @epiclurk.
For all the Goaters' posturing on the label, this beer actually pours a lot lighter than expected: a deep brown-mahogany hue, with a very frothy, almost obscene head of mildest mocha. Lacing is great though, and the body is fairly solid. I wonder about the carbonation: it doesn't seem visible in the body much, but the head is pillowy and insubstantial, like it's being supported by a lot of CO2. Well, we'll find out, I guess...
Nose is a pleasant and workable mÃ©lange: bright, green, albeit slightly generic hops with a broad malty base and a hint of roast. The greenness of the hops becomes a little bit too prominent, almost giving a slight grassiness to the aroma: not the broad, fruity characters I expect from Galaxy and Cascade. As it warms, the malt gets a bit heavier, leaving a touch of chocolate sweetness. Overall, it's Good, but doesn't ever get beyond Good.
Taste is similar, although the hops are even less pronounced here. Mild malty entry gives some roasted but soft grain characters, before a slight spike in bitterness towards the finish. The ending is very smooth at least, with rippled waves of chocolate and coffee drifting off and away. The hop flavour perhaps only comes through near the front when you can still smell it, lending a faint citrus aroma along with some fruit skin. Feel is supple and smooth and very pleasant.
Overall, I'm happy enough with this, but it's not the most exciting (and far from being the most IPA-like) Black IPA. Given that it's a style that really needs to reign in and control the balance between it's conflicting elements, a small mishap on one side or the other can really make a big differenceâas I feel it has in this example.
70 / 100
Bottle given to me by @LaitueGonflable, which I shared blind with him and @tobeerornottobe.
Pours a deep brown colour, with an initially firm head that settles to a lot of dishwasher suds bubbles of a really quite pale colour. Lacing is speckled. Body has a pleasant weight to it, however, and it leaves some static carbonation when tilted. Overall, it looks good, but it could look better.
Nose is a gorgeously ripe and sharp citric bite. Big sharp orange characters mingled with Meyer lemon to give it a bit more bite. There's a very subtle hint of roast behind it, but it's almost non-existent. This is about the hoppy aroma and nothing but. And boy is it good stuffâon par with the aroma of some of the best American IPAs.
Taste is a little bit odd. It feels really compressed and doesn't express itself fully. There's that sharp orange-citrus bite, and a hint of darkness that comes through a little like a coffee brownieâsweet but dark and compact. It gives it a carob character along with a bit of lavender. Very interesting.
Overall, nothing in this beer matches up to the nose, but the nose is so good that it almost drags everything up to its own standard.
83 / 100
500ml Bottle. Purchased for me by @epiclurk.
Pours a deep black colour, with just a tinge of red at the edged. Head is full and frothy, forming a solid mocha-coloured crest to the beer. Lace is excellent: firm and full, but with interesting wavering patterns at the top. Body is quite fluid. It's a great-looking beer.
Nose is pleasantly balanced between three characters: one, hops, which come forward in a pronounced but generic sweep. Two: darkness, but this is far from a generic roast character. Instead, we get a sweetness that melds with the hop fragrance and releases its own aromatics, that of aniseed and liquorice. And finally, there's the seeming constant in Haand beers: a very slight note of smoke. It's a glorious combination, making this a very heady brew.
Taste is also glorious. Indeed, every sip seems to plumb new depths. On the front, at various times we have liquorice, roasted malt, or the progenitor of hop bitterness. Whatever the start on your particular sip, this always develops into a strong roasted character mid-palate, after which we get a milder and sweeter dark note, suggesting roasted nuts or biscuits. The back has a hay or grassy character as the hops put in their day's work, while the finish has a little more nuttiness and a slight wafty aroma of anise and smoke.
Feel is a little thin, the only drawback that I can really see.
This is great stuff from Haand, who have a reputation to uphold with me. This beer discharges that reputation beautifully, and keeps Haand in my sights as one of the breweries to be truly excited about when I get a new beer of theirs in my hands.
On-tap at the Local Taphouse in Sydney as part of the Italian Spectapular festival.
Pours a reddish brown colour, both lighter and clearer than I expected. Head is a solid creamy white hue that leaves very solid fine sheeting lace down the glass. Looks good.
Nose is pleasant enough, with some mild roasted notes and mild inoffensive hops, which meld to give a peachy character, spliced with some extra grain from the roast. It adds depth to the aroma, but not a huge amount. Not bad.
Light bitter malt on the front, leaving a grain taste, before the hops display a biting entry. This dissipates rather quickly, leaving the mid-palate feeling a little bit like the lull between storms, and the hops turn fragrant and rather sweet. Finish crescendoes in bitterness, leaving a solid feeling at both the front and the back of the palate.
Not bad overall. Plenty of nice characters done reasonably well. It's not going to knock anyone's socks off, but it's solid enough.
82 / 100
Had on-tap at GABS in Melbourne earlier in the year. Just entering my written reviews now, only, what, 3 months late?
Pours a deep black-ruby colour, with quite good clarity. Body is quite firm, as is the head, forming a full crest of beige-orange. Lace is full, soft and fine. Looks great overall.
Aroma is brilliant: apricot, coconut and chocolate dance together in sweet, fruity but deep harmony. It's beautifully balanced between all of the elements of this barrel-aged IBA. Great stuff.
Feel enters with some lightly toasted grain characters, giving a solid but clean basis for what follows. Smooth fruits develop along with some barrel and slight booze characters, which give off characters of cherry and kirsch. On the back is a drying oak smoothness that lends suppleness to the palate overall. On the finish is a mild tonic bitterness which just ties everything up.
Smooth and dangerous, this is really great stuff. This was one of my favourites at GABS, and certainly the best HopDog beer I've tried so far. Keep it up, guys...
69 / 100
Bottle purchased from Slowbeer. Shared with @tobeerornottobe.
Pours a deep brown colour, with a solid and consistent head of ochre-beige. Patchy, spotty lace forms as the head subsides. Body is pretty light, but very decent. Overall, a solid looking brew.
Nose is clear and pungent, with a solid green, slightly biting hop character drawing through the centre, above a solid malt base. Surprisingly, there's very little in the way of roast character to the brew, although there's perhaps a depth to the organics that suggests a hint of char or smoke. Good stuff.
Taste has more of a dichotomy: solid smooth roasted malt forms the basis, but the hops are certainly muted (as is to be expected from a wet-hopped ale, I guess). The roast is also mild, but without a big vector of compressed hops it feels dominant. Overall, it's a decent palate, but somewhat emphasises the drawbacks of brewing with fresh hops.
Overall, definitely a nice brew, and great to see more collaborations between Aussies and some of the world's powerhouse brewers. It's very decent and with good characters to it: but it's perhaps constrained by what it is intrinsically.
72 / 100
On-tap at the Rogue Brewery in Newport, OR.
Pours a deep amber hue. What's that? Amber? Yes, it's almost too light to be a Black IPA. It might have passed without commend had it been a "dark IPA", but black is pushing it. Head is a bubbly ring of white which forms some decent sheeting lace. Body weight is very solid. Apart from the colour, it looks pretty good.
Nose is fascinating: initially brusque and noticeable pine resin mingles with a big hit of roastiness and a dash of smoke, hitting the dichotomy of the style nicely. This morphs into a savoury salt and pepper character as I get used to it. Nice.
Light bitey hops on the front come forward, before the hops crescendo, and fight off an attack from the smokey malt character. The culmination is a biting, powerful, almost astringent aldehyde bitterness on the back. Phwoar. This is not holding anything back... Feel is surprisingly light, but it works: it's at least something keeping the beer in check.
Overall, there's no doubting this beer's power. But it sure harms its drinkability. Maybe I'll just have one.
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.
98 / 100
(Best of the Best)
Bottle picked up from BevMo in Sunnyvale, CA.
Pours a deep brown colour (certainly more brown than black), with a firm and frothy head of mocha foam. Body is solid, holding its carbonation nicely. Lacing is great. Overall, it's a top-notch looking beer. If it were actually black like advertised it would be a clear 5/5.
Ooh, the nose is phenomenal, and is making a good play for a 5/5 itself, straight off the bat. Big fragrant hops meander among the complex and almost unknowable malt basis. Rye gives peppery notes, which mingles with a hint of faintly smoky roast, sweetness and even a touch of salt. The hops complement this, and seemingly fill in the gaps, creating an immensely nuanced but coherent and expressive whole. Gorgeous stuff.
The taste is also complex, but excitingly in different ways than expected from the nose. Here, there is really a genuine hint of smoke, which adds a subtle comforting sweetness underneath everything, above which is layered roast, malt, bright hops, smoothness. There's spice and pepper on the back, but smooth fruitiness, and even a caressing chocolate character. Wow. It's like there's such complexity to every layer at every point on the palate. I feel like I could keep describing the exciting little things which pop up at different points, and still not scratch the surface.
Feel is smooth and rich, but never so much that it starts to overwhelm the palateâit lets the flavours of the beers talk for themselves.
Wow. Just wow. This is a phenomenally good beer. Exciting, complex, rich, but for all that balanced and exceptionally drinkable. Gorgeous stuff. Just gorgeous.
77 / 100
Bottle from @Slowbeer shared with @tobeerornottobe.
Pours a pleasant deep brown-black colour, with a solid and appreciable head of off-white beige. Solid colour and lacing. Looks really good.
Nose is indeed peppery, with a clean fresh citric fruity brightness. The pepper adds a pleasant American Barbecue character to the mix, which melds well with the faint roasty characters of the brew. Very decent.
Taste is light, but pleasantly savoury, with a good peppery bite and a dash of roasty dryness on the finish. It almost has a South East Asian spice character to it, giving a freshness like dried coriander and a touch of smokiness without any genuine smoked characters on the malt. It's really quite unusual, but clean and solid and it makes sense as a whole, although being genuinely weird as a beer.
Feel is fresh but solid, providing a genuinely clear basis for the beer as a whole.
Really pleasant beer. I love the spiciness that gives it such a robust refreshing SE Asian street-food character. It's unusual but so coherent. Lovely beer all up.
76 / 100
Pours a dark murky red; Hellish glint at the edge. Head is lovely - dense, frothy beige foam leaving a sticky cradle on the side. Could be more generous, but otherwise looks cracking.
Smells intriguing. Lots of dark and boozey notes, with pleasant espresso character, some hint of dark wood, chocolate and some peppery spice. A slight umami aroma too, slight seafood character and some resinous hop on the back. Very, very interesting, but it's not the most instantly appealing aroma.
Taste is mostly roastly [sic] [it's a pun]. Dark but sweet with unsweetened chocolate, some espresso notes with leather, oak and some tobacco. Gets some lighter, more resinous notes late, but still bitter in spite of the fact that the hops elevate it from its dark pit of roasty. Yeah, maybe finishes a little too spicy, with a coriander-esque hang at the back. Pleasant, though, and very intriguing.
Quite full, fairly smooth. Tastes like it might be boozey, and yet doesn't quite feel it.
Not an everyday drinker, but lots of intrigue and quite pleasant. Could see beers like this acting as gateways for people who already like beer but not dark beer.
Pours a murky red colour, quite dark with sexy, slinky beige film of head, clinging to the sides of the glass nicely. Looks good.
Smells malty and sweet and thick. Plenty of English toffee, brown sugar and treacle, with a mild citric tang over the top and a hint of resin. Bit sweet and dessert wine-esque; could use a bit more cutting.
Taste is also pretty damn malty but not quite so ridiculously sweet, with a slightly toasted edge and quite a lot of booziness. Rye bread, brown sugar and sherry, with a touch of brandy on the back that's quite noticeably warm. Overall a bit simple, too, doesn't quite develop the complex sugars I might have expected. So big, yet subdued in some ways. Not bad.
Bit watery on the feel, but there's a noticeable kick to it - boozey with a slightly frothy texture. Decent.
Sweet, desserty kind of brew. Feel like it's missing something though that might have pulled it all together.
74 / 100
Dark red hue with a white head, nice and frothy and retaining well. Lace is pretty nice; not very sticky but creates cool patterns on the glass. Nice.
Smells tasty, but quite intense: very distinct peppermint notes with chocolate malt underlying. Hint of passionfruit maybe, but yeah a sharp, fresh yet rounded mint note mostly. Impressive, and I'm certainly not averse.
Taste is quite dark upfront with earthy, slightly roasted malt. Develops spicy notes midway with more mint, aniseed and some cocoa. Bit sharp, but the roasty malts come through late to soothe the palate. Maybe a bit too much pique in the middle but an impressive, refreshing, brooding dark beer.
Bit spicy and tickly on the front and quite dry. OK.
Intriguing beer with lots of mysterious personality, and a piquant spark of life that ignites, but also slightly overcooks.
71 / 100
Again, the plastic cork is difficult to extract; as always with the Abstrakt series.
Pours a ruddy brown colour, rather translucent, with a bubbly and inconsistent head of pale chocolate shavings brown. Body is very thin and fluid. Lacing is patchy and speckled. Wow. I didn't expect this beer to look so innocuous, but it does.
Nose is very pleasant, with a nice blend of sweet, grainy malts, above a dark fruity hop character. The hops give a rather berry-like aroma, with hints of blackcurrants and a herbal tone. Smells to me rather like Bramling Cross. It's nicely integrated, but surprisingly light.
Taste is similar, and indeed, perhaps a little more subdued again even. Sweet, swilling malts give off mild grain and confectioner's sugar notes through the centre, while a moderated and earthy bitterness creeps through to balance on the end. Through the mid palate, toasty, slightly oaky notes come through, giving mince pie filling and some slight brandy. There's hints of booze in there to accentuate all of this, but again I'm surprised at how mild and moderated it all seems.
Feel is particularly light, and while smooth, is very fluid.
Good enough when viewed in isolation, but a pretty tame entry in the series, and not even a great example of an IBA. Given these things, it doesn't justify the hefty price tag it attracts. Not even close.
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.
Pours a dark brown colour, certainly not the "black" of its name; even in the centre it's a solid but translucent brown. Body looks solid enough and forms some pretty nice, fine carbonation. Above this is a filmy, but fine beige head, which forms some solid and intricate lacing. Not a bad look all up.
Nose is sharp and tropical, with stacks of green, almost passionfruity hops like Nelson Sauvin or Riwaka. This melds really pleasantly with the sweet dark characters of chocolate and slightly earthy grain. It's an exciting and very fragrant nose.
Taste is a little less layered than it might have been, and the hops feel a little unbalanced here, giving a sharp astringency on the front, very much like white lemon pith. Some dry, biscuity malt sits on the back, but there's very little residual sweetness, and very little body to back it up. Feel is clean, but a bit too thin.
Not bad, all up, but it feels like they've wasted that wonderful amalgam of grain and hops on the nose by making the beer thinner than it should have been. There's real potential here: there are some really obvious things that could be done to this beer to make it better.
I guess I'm just disappointed that Beer Here didn't do them.
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.
81 / 100
Pours a very dark colour with a red tinge, like polished mahogany. Head is beige, nice texture to it but a bit whispy. Lacing is something else, though. Very nice.
Smells pleasant and floral, but with a nice earthy grounding from the darker malts. Junipers comes through strong and clear (for the record, I've never smelled juniper so when I say that, I mean it smells like gin) and is very nice - spicy, floral and fresh. Dark malts are a good foil.
Juniper is strong from the get-go, providing a floral flavour with a hint of peppery spice upfront. Develops into nice, smooth dark palate which is far more dark malt than anything else, slightly roasty but never really bitter. May well be the floral notes lifting that. Not a mind-blowing palate, but a very nice harmonic flavour chord struck. Am enjoying this.
Decent body, fair amount of texture. Dry on the finish but leaves a residual film in the mouth. Really very enjoyable.
Great drop; clever flavour idea and well-handled to get the most out of it.
86 / 100
Served to me blind by @laituegonflable.
Deep brown colour, almost black, but with enough lightness to keep it from opacity. Head is fine and light brown-coloured, giving a creamy top to the beer, and leaving some exquisite lacing. Really looks excellent. Certainly, it has the appearance of a beer I'd love to drink.
Nose is roasted and quite bitter, with huge burnt chocolate and grain characters. Coffee, however, is the dominant theme, and it gives a rich espresso brutality to the aroma. There's a hint of burnt toast to it, giving a more stagnant, and more traditional dark ale note, but the coffee knows its place and keeps it.
Smooth on the palate, and incredibly round and soft, leaving the flavours of coffee without any hint of astringent bitterness. Back is roasted, but subtle and smooth, and the finish is quite dry; there's certainly not a lot of sweetness, but it all works. It has enough body to support the roasted and rich characters. Not a lot of hops to it, but otherwise very delicious. Feel is smooth, but slightly frothy. Very pleasant indeed.
This is a lovely beer. Quite truly. It has the round body and smoothness to make it supple and drinkable, but the roasted richness and sharp bitterness to make it interesting. So well balanced and exceptionally drinkable.
Tried again 4/11/2011, with an aged bottle:
Pours a deep black-brown, with a rather crunchy and incredibly deep brown. Lacing is firmly patterned, leaving inscribed Hebrew characters on the inside of my glass. Or what looks like Hebrew characters anyway. Decently thick body. It looks pretty damn good.
Nose is excellent. It's a wonderful blend of nutty malt characters, deeper, sweeter chocolate and a wonderful flourish of fresh, floral hop characters. It's a beautiful mix, and wonderfully balanced. The hops give a slight brightness and freshness to the nose, but the main character is lovely deep, rich dark characters. It's gorgeous.
Taste carries this on perfectly, with a bit of an uptilt to the darker, roastier characters. A slightly lighter body fills in the character that the hops gave on the nose, giving a freshness and drinkability. Feel is light, but it fits very pleasantly.
This is a really lovely brew, and having it down the line has let it
mature and amalgamate a bit more. Fresh, I expected a big, hoppy Black IPA, but later, this has turned into a gorgeously deep dark beer, with a bright crispness from the residual hops. I'm so glad I got to try it at both ages.
75 / 100
Pours a very dark brown with mahogany edge up to the light. Head is nice and generous at first, dissipates to a sparse film but lovely lace left behind. Sensing a good body here, but yeah, looks nice.
Smells very boozey, but it's a nice character. Lots of coconut, sweet vanilla and marzipan nuttiness. Touch of honey, and a hint of bourbon at the back. Yeah, very pleasant though; nutty and sweet. Good use of rye.
Taste is also very nutty. A bit dry, really, with lots of slightly sour notes of roasted peanuts, macadamias and dark chocolate on the back. Plenty of nutty notes from the rye turns it almost savoury with a slight saltiness, marzipan and hint of brown sugar. Not as big or as boozey as I'd expected but a nice blend of lighter and darker grains for an interesting sweet palate.
Full, smooth, slightly hot from the booze but pretty nice anyway.
Nice beer with good characters. Quite intriguing, could use a little less booziness on the nose and feel.
77 / 100
Served to me blind by @LaitueGonflable.
Pours a pleasant deep black, with hints of reddish hue around the corners of the glass. Head is crispy and foamy, with large bubbles crackling out of the body, and persisting rather well. Colour is a deep, creamy beige. Minimal lacing and the body looks a little thin, but otherwise good.
Nose is lovely, with a very pleasant roasted character through the centre and an interesting touch of acidity or hops--something which adds a little greenness to the aroma (obviously the juniper). Very nice melange--it's almost like a fresh black IPA, but there's a twist to it that makes it very intriguing.
Taste is also nice, with a robust roasted character that seems to come mostly from the grains rather than the hops, and a lingering vegetative character. No oily hop residue, which makes me think the bitterness is indeed from straight char or husk tannins. The finish dries out quite a lot, giving hints of fresh roasted coffee. Feel is smooth and light, but slightly chewy.
Really nice, easy drinking dark ale, with plenty of character and a little bit of mystery. Cracking drop.
88 / 100
Purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA, to replace the bottle I gave away to @headlessclown.
Pours a really deep dark brown, that doesn't manage to give the illusion that it's actually black. Head is a wonderfully thick and creamy ochre-brown, however, and leaves sheets of coral-like lacing down the glass. It manages to persist as half a centimetre of froth almost to the bottom of the glass. Carbonation is so fine that when tilted it almost looks like powder on the inside of the glass. Oh, I so want it to be slightly darkerâit would almost be perfect then. Screw it, I'll give it a 5 anyway.
Nose is rich and luscious which makes for a potent combination. Big sweet dark malt characters come through along with an almost spicy kick from the hops. It's a fresh, organic, slightly herbal character and it melds really nicely with the sweet roasted characters. It's also overlaid with hints of wood and vanilla. Overall, phenomenal nose. Let's face it.
Taste is similarly good, with a big, rich smoothness throughout and a light peppering on the back from the clinging, oily hops. Very decent bitterness that makes it hard to distinguish between roastiness and hop characterâa great sign in an IBA; a sign that the two sides of the beer have melded and synergised. It's smooth, rich, but bursting with flavour. Gorgeous beer.
This is an absolutely cracking brew. Rich and smooth, but bright and crisp as well. Truly this is a hallmark of the style. I'm shocked I gave away my first bottle.
87 / 100
Pours a dark, devilish black colour, with a fine, slightly filmy, but solid enough head of yellowish mocha coloured foam. Lacing is intricate and fine. Body is actually quite light, and the beer is strangely translucent at the edges. Otherwise, a fine looking beer.
Nose is extremely pleasant, with a lovely blend of fresh citric hop characters and spicy dark rye notes. Together, it gives this nuanced, deep and complex hoppy aroma, that is layered and sophisticated. You can sense the darkness as well, but the rye is the main contributor other than the hops. And boy it's pleasant.
Taste is also excellent, with a smoothness from the malt skittering off course with the biting, citric fresh hop characters and the earthy, aromatic and slightly tart rye character. It gives this lovely conglomerate of flavours, at once fresh and lively and grounded and earthy.
The feel is excellent: smooth, but surprisingly light for the volume and the level of flavour. It allows the characters to come through fully, but never feels like it's not supporting them enough.
What a great beer. Rye is a marvellous addition here, giving an extra layer of complexity on top of an already layered and complex beer. The style calls for jarring dichotomies, and this beer has them, but also drags everything together into a coherent whole.
70 / 100
Whoa. That will teach me not to read the bottle. Expecting an IPA, I poured it and almost jumped in shock at the deep, dark black colour coming out of the bottle. Deep and black it is, with a very fine and creamy head of milk-chocolate brown. Body is a little thinner than it would be for an imperial stout, but in all other respects it rather resembles one. Pretty impressive.
Nose is presented twice. First, still it gives off deep roasty and chocolate tones, with a deep dark sweetness that almost epitomises a big American stout. Then, when it's swirled, the resinous hop characters get released, giving a pine fragrance and sharp grapefruit aroma. Oddly enough, you never seem to get both at the same timeâthe hops overpower the dark characters when they're present, and when still, the hop fragrance isn't activated. It's interesting.
Taste is smooth enough, but missing something key. Here, the dichotomy of styles means that neither reaches its full potential: it's neither hoppy, crisp and bitter enough to be an IPA, nor full, rich, and deep enough to be a big stout. Instead, we get this middling ground of muddled chocolate, a bit of roast character and a lingering hop oil character on the back palate. Feel is smooth and pleasant, though, and the 10% is well hidden under the big confused flavours.
A nice beer, but not one that's particularly well integrated, and one that perhaps doesn't justify the existence of this style. And it's a style that continually needs to be justified when there's perpetually confused examples of it like this one.
Pours a very dark mahogany colour with a red tinge. Head is beige, overly generous but that's OK since it looks good: dense and fluffy with beautiful lace. Bit too much head, but otherwise great.
Smell is very chocolatey, with a weird nutty, salty, almost corporeal edge to it. Very sweet, with cocoa, butter and a cake-batter aroma. Bit too sweet and clingy, definitely needs hops or something to freshen it up, or cut through the malt, or at least to be appropriate for the style.
Taste is less sweet, with dark malts taking the fore. Lots of dark caramel upfront with hints of English toffee, before becoming very chocolatey on the mid-palate. Hints of espresso coming through late and some spice characters - licorice, pepper and maybe coriander. Hint of some herbal hops at the very back, but it's mostly just roasty bitterness late. More like a really malty porter than any other style (including ABA), but not a bad beer for all its shortcomings.
Bit thin on the body, but smooth and easy drinkin'.
Would have liked more from this; like ordering a bride from a mail-order catalogue that's ten years out of date, I'm a bit disappointed with what I've received here.
Pours a dark sultana-red colour, just flashes of colour up to the light. Head is beige, decent density, just a thin crown of bubbles left with spidery lace. Quite good.
Smell is plum-full of dark fruits. Nice roasty, unsweetened chocolate base to it and then shitloads of dried apple, prunes, dates, figs and cranberry. Kind of brandy edge and a good dose of nutmeg that adds a woodiness. Really rather pleasant; spicy and curranty.
Taste is disappointingly subdued. Pleasant notes are around but just not as distinct as on the nose. Sultanas, raisins and currants provide the majority with some prune sweetness and mild nutmeg spice on the mid. Hint of licorice towards the back without spice and finishes with a big cocoa-rich chocolate finish. Really overall just tastes like chocolate-covered licorice bullets. Not bad, could use some more pow!
Thin feel, really. Just feels empty most of the way through the palate with some drying sensations at times. Really could use more body.
A nice-flavoured beer, but it makes me want to put it through flavour boot camp: "You call yourself a craft beer, you weak, lilly-livered maggot?" Not because it's bad but because I feel it could use some tough love.
71 / 100
Enjoyed at the Venn Gallery bar in Perth.
Pours a dark cola colour with orange tinge, very big head - beige coloured and beautifully dense. Retains lovely fluffy crown. Pretty fantastic.
Lovely resinous hops on the nose, lots of oily citric notes with grapefruit, grass and a nice coffee malt underlying adding a sweet cocoa aroma and caramel. Very nice indeed.
Taste starts out very malty with nice roasted coffee notes, touch of chocolate and some oak character as well. Hops come through then, oily and resinous with some bitter grapefruit character, as well as some Chinese herbal notes at the back. Finishes quite clean, but a whisper of a hang from the bittering hops. Not bad, but could use a more defined profile; it's really just a big mass of flavour all at once and some better distinction between front and back would make the flavours really come alive.
Full, smooth, and very pleasant with not a lot of dry pull, even though hop oils are distinct.
Great Black Ale and a worthy beer from Kooinda. Good work.
73 / 100
I always tend to pass over Moylans when I see it on the shelf. I don't quite know why, but for some reason this one caught my eye. Let's see how it goes. Purchased in Berkeley, CA, and brought back to Sydney to share with @LaitueGonflable and @tobeerornottobe.
Pours a deep and relatively clear dark red colour, almost black until the hue is exposed to the light. Head is filmy and a little inconsistent, but forms in pleasant fine bubbles on the surface. Some patchy string-like lacing.
Nose is immediately pounded with jaffa characters of piquant, spicy orange and smooth grainy chocolate. Sharp, sweetly citric hop characters come through on a basis that is full of dark sweetness. It's hard to say it any other way. This smells like jaffas. It's excitingly different.
Taste is similar, with a pleasant dark chocolate and grain character leavened and cut with a rather sweet but slightly biting hop bitterness. The aroma still sticks around, lending the sensation of sweetness to the brew, even though the body itself is quite light and thin.
A very interesting brew. It misses some body, which is a bit of a shame, but otherwise it's a pretty decent ABA, with a lovely and dichotomous mixture of hops and sweet dark grain.
76 / 100
Bottle purchased for me by @LaitueGonflable. Cheers!
Pours very dark, almost opaque, with touches of crispy crown at the edges. Head is huge and frothy, a deep tan-brown colour. Lacing is wiry and spideryâit looks lovely. Not that thick and heavy in the body however, and there's minimal visible static carbonation.
Nose is lovely and hopped up with gorgeous hoppy aromas. The Sauvin comes through beautifully, giving a wonderful tropical passionfruit character. This mingles weirdly with a touch of roasted coffeeâthe green, sharp hoppy character and the mellow dark coffee and chocolate is an awesome blend. This may be the best smelling IBA I've had.
Taste is more roasty, but with a pronounced clean green bitterness through the centre. Roasted coffee, charred grain, with a lightly acidic, fruity passionfruit character underpinning it. It's quite bitter, because both the hops and the roast add their own bitterness. Very light body still. I'm waiting for an IBA with a big, heavy, chewy body. Not this one, though.
Very drinkable and very pleasant, if a little crazy. The IBA is meant to be a weird concoction, a blend of odd characters that clash and meld. Nelson Sauvin works so well in this because it has such a clean and biting freshness that it's almost the most unlikely hop to put in a black brew. That's why it works.
77 / 100
Pours a nice deep-brown with dark-red tinge. Head is beige, lovely and dense but dissipates before too long, leaving gorgeous but sparse lace ring around the glass. Pretty damn fine.
Nose is predominantly roasty. Nice dark chocolate notes giving sweet and toasty in equal measure. Slight floral hop notes lend it a mild sour touch, and the back is all caramel grain. Very nice.
Taste starts out all hoppy, with enjoyable floral notes, touch of pine and mint. Lasts until the mid where the roasty grain takes hold and gives it a mildly sour cocoa throttle. Rich chocolatey notes on the finish for a decent roast that doesn't quite fill the palate with its goodness. The nice hops return on the very back with more of a fresh, lighter bitterness than one might have expected from the rest of the palate, but it leaves me wanting more of a robust portery finish. Still, the hoppy/roasty balance overall is definitely a winner.
A bit too much fizz, but it's not harsh, nicely padded by the decent body.
Good take on the porter/IBA trade-off here. Very drinkable and enjoyable, makes for a great session beer or a transition beer for dark ale skeptics. One to remember.
74 / 100
Had on-tap at the Local Taphouse for the Kiwi SpecTapular. I was looking forward to this one parhaps overly much, and I had very high expectations for it, given how much I love Croucher's other brews.
Pours a deep brown-black, opaque in the centre, but quite light on the edges. Lacing is extremely good, giving a webbed appearance down the glass. Looks good.
Nose, is very hoppy, giving a very nice American IPA characterâbright orange citrus with some grainy sweetness and a touch of stewed plums to give it depth. Nice.
Taste is also clean and bright. Apart from the colour, it actually ends up being a very sharp and drinkable IPA. Crisp finish, with just a lingering hint of roasted bitterness. Mild mid-palate, meaning a lot of the complexity gets dropped before the finish, but it's a drinkable brew.
It's lively, flavoursome and tasty enough. I have to say, it missed meeting my expectations, but I also should say that my expectations were unreasonably high.
71 / 100
Pours a dark brown, but with murky red tinge up to the light. Head is beige, dense, pretty good retention and lace that is thin but clingy. Yeah, nice look.
Smells very coffee-esque. Lots of roasted malt with rich cocoa chocolate blending with bitter espresso. Touch of mint, licorice adding a sweet spice note to it, but it's ultimately more like a big bitter stout hit than an IBA.
Taste is dryer than anticipated. Starts rich and malty, lots of dark roastiness on the front, develops into a mid-palate which is spicy and roasty with espresso notes. Finish is mostly spicy with black pepper, fennel and even turmeric on there. It's spice without a lot of the flavour, because the roast doesn't quite last until the end except in bitterness. Good palate, nice overall, a bit heavy on the spice and could use more floral hoppy notes to carry it through.
Seems thin on the front but there's definitely plenty of body. More spunk on the back, almost too much with a fair boozey heat.
Yeah, good beer and interesting take on the IBA style. Rough at times and also a bit too much towards stouty blackness at times, but the rewards are ultimately there.
73 / 100
Purchased from Ledger's Liquors in Berkeley, CA and carted back to Australia to drink with @LaitueGonflable, at his request.
Pours a deep balck-brown colour, but lightened at the edges, with a fine and frothy head of mocha-coffee beige. Lacing is excellent, and sticks like sediment to the sides of the glass. Body is a bit lighter that I expected, but otherwise, it's a good looking black ale.
Nose is roasty and dark, but the hops (or at least what hops are present) just lighten it enough to make it seem like a weak dark ale, without adding any true hoppy fragrance or citric acidity. It ends up a pleasantly sweet, slightly coffee charactered dark ale, but missing some of the best elements of the genre. Honestly, if you overhop an ABA anywhere, it's on the noseâand this doesn't do it.
Taste is pleasntly roasty, with a slight citric overtone, and a hint of greenness that reins it in from being overly dark. Here the hops just balance the palate nicely. I'd actually be quite a fan if there was some true hop fragrance on the nose. The palae is good, however, giving a subtle twinge of freshness above the roasted black notes. It leavens the palate very nicely.
Feel is light, but appropriate.
It's a decent brew, but one that doesn't ever step up for its genre. There are much better examples, and beers I'd much rather drink on a regular basis. Something that I'm glad I've tried, but not something I'd be excited about drinking again.
75 / 100
Pours a murky dark colour with flashes of red up to the light. Head is pale yellow, nice and dense but sinking slowly, leaving some persistent lace that just won't go away. Looks are cranking here.
Ooh yeah, that's an IBA smell. Lots of hops, floral and flighty with fresh grass, pineapple and citrus on there. Touch of cantaloupe as well, especially where the roastiness comes up and infuses it with a grounded sweetness. Toasty, hoppy, very pleasant.
Taste is also pleasant, with nice dark malts upfront, lots of cocoa and some oaky notes as well. Hops come through midway, slightly resinous with sap and wood notes, but they do lift the palate a bit with some light spicy touches of lemongrass, pepperberry and licorice. It's growing on me, but I would have liked more fresh hop oomph, especially on the finish. Still a good palate.
Fairly full body, but with a lot of dharp hop drying at the back. Bit too crisp, to be fair.
Yeah, a good IBA, but it doesn't really sell the style as well as some others I've had.
79 / 100
Had on-tap recently at the Local Taphouse in Darlinghurst.
Pours a dark reddish-brown, beautifully rich and full like black cherries. Head is thick and very fine-bubbled. Lacing is sticky, web-like and taut. Good heft to the body. Looks really, really good.
Dark raspberries and cherry sweetness on the nose which is uncompromisingly pummelled with citric hops. This tasty combination is cushioned with a very soft brown bread and slightly toasted character, a little nutty, warm and smooth. Nice.
Taste is light, with tangerine coming through very stronglyâdefinitely the biggest and most noticeable flavour. Hops are huge, giving sweet fruit with citric bite. The roastiness really only comes through on the back, and even the finish ends up with a green crushed leaf character.
A great beer. Very flavoursome, and a wonderful collaboration. It's almost a sensory overload after a while, and I love it. I really feel that the rest of the world has jumped into the next gear to catch up to the US craft industry, and when it catches it, it will sail way, way past.
84 / 100
Pours a very dark umber with glints of red up to the light. Pour forms a gorgeous cascade of bubbles flying up to form a magestic, tightly-packed beige head that retains about a finger of nice, sticky lace. Something special is happening in this glass, as well as in my loins.
Nose is a big, meaty whiff of tropical hoppiness. There's an earthy, piney and resiny aroma at first, putting me in mind of freshly-lain floor and sawdust, with just a touch of honey and some milk chocolate as well. When that initial burst disperses it instead uncloaks a delectable mélange of tropical fruits, with kiwi, banana, pawpaw and pineapple streaming out. Just a touch of fresh cut grass at the back to bring us back to the bitterness path. A scintillating blend of earthy and airy aromas that is primeval in its magnificence.
Taste starts out with a rich, creamy sweetness, dark caramel malts with some early pine resin notes from the hops. Develops further into a mid-palate which is rich in nuttiness; almond meal and walnuts mainly. The dark malt comes through largely towards the finish, with a nicely tempered roastiness, some cocoa and toast. The hops seem conspicuously lacking; there's a nice taming of the roastiness with a fresher, almost grassy bitterness on the back, but as far as distinct hop notes go they're not nearly so abundant as they were on the nose. I can't help but call the lack of hop intensity a fault in a "black IPA", even though the palate, in its perfectly poised dark/fresh equilibrium provides a generous, harmonic profile of complex nuances. A delicious beer but I fear one that falls short on the "India" factor.
They've really got all the body out of that 6.8%, and the carbonation is at just the right level to dry the palate but not sizzle on the tongue. Insanely good texture.
There is something very, very special happening in this glass and one can only hope that this carries through into the brew-collaboration scene in Australia. Frankly this is the beer I had hoped Epic and Dogfish Head could make together, but where they fell short, Goat Beer and Thornbridge have picked up the gauntlet and run with it. It's tasty, balanced and even thirst-quenching for its 6.8% darkness. Falls slightly short on the big hop notes, but streaks ahead in every other field.
71 / 100
Purchased as part of an order from Slowbeer in Melbourne.
Yep, it pours black, at least, living up to its name, a deep black with just hints of translucent brown at the edges. Head is fine and filmy, leaving sheets of lacing down the inside of the glass. Moderate body. Looks very decent.
Nose. Oh wow, what a nose. In some respects, this epitomises what I imagine of the style. Lovely fresh, slightly fruity, but slightly sharp hops, above a perfectly pitched basis of crushed dark biscuits and grainy malt. It feels like they've struck the perfect balance here. Om nom nom.
Taste is a little more chaotic, giving the grainy, roasted notes without much body to back them up. Hop character is slightly muted as well, but provides a decent green vector of bitterness through the centre. Around the outside, the slightly toasty bread-grain notes rattle about the place, giving a robust portery character. Feel is loose, but pleasant.
A nice beer, and a very good example of the style. I'm still coming to terms with what this style should be, but I feel as though if they were all as good as this, the world would be a happy place.
69 / 100
Pours a very dark chocolatey colour. Head is ochre and really, nicely dense, with visible bubbles on top and beautiful lace patterns around the glass. Good retention, good colour. Good beer. Good beer.
Smells very rich and chocolatey but with a big funky oaky aroma as well. Lots of fresh coconut with herbal hints, rich cocoa and a touch of vanilla. Pineapple tinges gives me thoughts of hops and a big melted butter fragrance overriding it all. So it's overall buttery but also dark, sweet, pleasant.
Taste is very woody; oaky throughout. Starts with fresh wood that develops some of that buttery character with peanut butter notes, touch of vanilla as well and a touch of cocoa on the back. Really doesn't taste that dark though; actually quite subdued towards the back and I'd like more black bitterness or hoppiness. All buttery, nutty and sweet but the finish is lacking compared to the rest; not helped by the fairly thin body. A touch of booze warmth as it goes down.
Overall a decent beer that isn't as good as it might have been with the extant flavours in different proportions.
79 / 100
On-tap as part of the Great Australian Beer SpecTapular at the Local Taphouse in February.
Pours a deep amber-brown colour, very clear, but certainly dark enough for an India Black Ale. Head is beautiful--gorgeous, even, a full bodied and creamy mesh on the top. Lacing leaves solid sheets down the inside of the glass. Looks phantastic with a 'ph'.
Nose is round and balanced--not the huge hop aroma I expected, but a very pleasant balance of citric spice and brown slightly toasted grains. Bit of carob aroma comes out of the confluence. Nice.
Taste is pleasantly nutty on the front, with a prominent bitterness that sharpens it to a refreshing point. Smooth body with length flavours. Lemon leaf organics noticeable, light astringency on the back. The hop bitterness is certainly pronounced here, but the dark body gives is a basis. Awesome.
Great brew, and a great example of the style. Shows what this style can be and what Feral can do. Great work.
80 / 100
Pours a murky brown colour, but translucent and clear. Head is a wonderfully dense, beige affair, tight, small bubbles providing some great lace. Cracking look.
Smells surprisingly dark, with big roasty notes as well as dark cocoa-rich chocolate. Lovely floral smell though from the hops, slightly spicy but a big load of nectar as well. Dark, spicy, hoppy. Pretty darn beautiful.
Taste is an interesting IBA one. Plenty of sweetish dark malt with plenty of chocolate and a touch of dark caramel as well. Hops come through midway, floral and piney with a touch of light cumin spice as well. They stick around to provide some bitterness for the back, but that roasty grain is still there making for a nice dark/light balance. Not hugely hoppy though and I'd like more. Very pleasant beer though.
Nice body, very slick and smooth as it goes down. Not quite seamless, there is a slight kick towards the back, but nonetheless a beautiful feel.
Cracking drop, and a good idea by the impossibly loud beer geeks at Feral ale stars a few months back.
75 / 100
Hard to classify based on what they specify. It's too light for an American stout, despite the oak aging which gives it some of those very classic oaky American characters, but then it's not quite hoppy enough for a classic IBA/CDA. Seeing as though American Black Ale is conveniently vague, I'll put it there.
Pours a a deep clear dark brown colour, with a very creamy head of light brown chocolatey foam. Lacing is surprisingly weak, and the body is quite light, especially at the edges. Looks decent enough.
Nose is really very pleasant. The American oak character comes through really pleasantly, giving that classic sweet vanilla and coconut flavour, almost to the detriment of everything else. It's sweet and luscious, although I almost expect a sharp and black charred character to go along with it, and this does not have it. As a result, it's almost too buttery, but still a very pleasant experience.
Taste is nice, although quite short on the palate, and genuinely lacking the dark roasted charred notes that the oaking compels it to have. Here, the smooth vanilla notes give a big sweetness, and the very subtle dark characters blend to give it a nutty finish. But it's very short, and it ends abruptly, leaving almost nothing on the finish.
Feel is smooth, and the oak works well here.
Seriously, the oak character is done well, and it really brings out some of the lovely characters tha American Oak can impart--but this is not quite the right beer to expose them in. It needs to be bigger, smoother, more alcoholic, darker and more intense overall. Here, the oak dominates what is effectively a quite subtle palate.
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.
77 / 100
Pours a very dark brown with a red tinge when held up to the light. Head is very generous, beautifully dense and tightly packed with great retention. Large bubbles on the side and some nice lacing left behind. Yeah, looks great.
Smells quite roasty and dark. Fairly sour with nice burnt characters, touch of charcoal to it. Yeah, chocolatey, hints of some phenols on there as well, slightly herbal but not a huge amount to it. Mostly just a dark choco-nutty note. Decent, but I'm a bit nonplussed about it for all the hype around the experimental style.
Taste is far more what I was expecting as far as interest goes. Fair amount of roastiness on the front with chocolate notes that descends into a fresh hoppy note with grass, herbal characters and some really lovely medicinal phenols (not often you'll hear those words in conjunction from me). Starts off slowly, but the roastiness is nicely balanced and cleansed by an almost tangy hoppiness midway. It's not a mind-blowing beer, or at least not as much as I thought it would be, but a pleasant, well-balanced brew.
Smooth, with lots of texture, not too dry on the back. Damn nice body. If this beer were a woman...
Could really see drinking a lot of this. I think Mr. Kraus and team could well handle something even more super-extra bizarre (yet to try the braggot, incidentally), which I was almost expecting this to be. Instead I'm pleasantly surprised to be sipping a pleasant, well-constructed drinking beer instead.
71 / 100
On-tap at the Local Taphouse, Darlinghurst.
Pours a deep, dark brown colour, with a pleasantly thick body, although it doesn't have a lot of static carbonation when swirled. Head grows out of the body, a thick and frothy ochre-coloured crown. Lacing is ace, and the head takes a long while to settle. Looks good.
Smells hoppy like buggers - very American in aroma. Lots of sweet orange, and a little pepper, maybe a touch of roastiness, but the dominant character initially is citrus. After a bit of a swirl, some nice sweet chocolate characters start to rise up. It's that nice IBA melange that makes the style so unique.
Very smooth on the palate. Here there's still a dash of candied orange, but the roastiness comes forward a lot more. Overcooked nuts come through with a dark character on the back, while the citrus sits on the top. It's like there's two separate beers in here, that are not integrated at all. But I guess that's what you expect in this interestingly odd style. Feel is great though, lovely and smooth.
Yeah, a drinkable brew, and one with the characters you want in the style. Nice.
Pours a gloomy dark red colour, the colour of Satan's blood. Head is small, more of a film than a head, but lacing is something else. A cradle of delicious beige foam. It looks as enticing as Shakespeare's dark lady, and just as intoxicating.
Smells smokey and woody, but lovely and sweet as well. Lots of chocolate, sweet, with rich berry notes, blackberry and cranberry and some oaky characters, plus fresh cut pine. Wonderfully idiosyncratic, rich, tart, beautiful and sweet. Yes, yes, yes!
Taste is intriguing, but definitely feels lacking in complexity compared to the nose. Has a darkness at first, chocolatey with an odd metallic tinge that descends into weird sourness. Quite coppery with a tinge of orange, melon and a lot of oak wood. Very oaky on the back in particular but it kind of falls short, finish-wise. Definitely deficient on the back, where it's clipped nicely but far too early. Simple and a bit odd at times; a disappointment after that delicious nose.
Not a bad texture, good and filling, could use more body here as well though.
It's a pretty good beer, but that nose set me up just for the palate to completely miss the mark. A shame.
70 / 100
Purchased from Jackson Wines & Spirits in Lafayette CA, and brought back in my luggage to Australia to crack open with my bro, and my bro from another mo.
Pours a deep brown, slightly red-tinged, slightly opaque colour, with a fine-bubbled and rather firm head of beige-brown bubbles. Lacing is solid and pretty decent. The colour is nice, but looks a little light for a IBA; it makes me wonder where the roasted characters are going to come from.
On the nose, however, they are there and present. Certainly some dark grain, toasted bread, with a light citric hop acidity and a hint of chemical astringency, that almost certainly comes from the hops as well. More of the roasted character, and less of the hops than I've had from many an IBA, but it's pretty interesting.
Taste is odd, but again, it works. Slight nutty malt character throughout, just punctuated with some light citric hops, and quite a light finish, that doesn't quite have much roasted or hoppy bitterness, although the mingled combination of the two lasts for some time. Feel is thin, but smooth.
It's a nice brew, but I've had better examples of the style. This one falls flat in a number of areas, and while it still yields a nice package, it's far from the pinnacle of the style.
81 / 100
Pours a dark, murky brown colour with delicious ochre head, sinking around the edges but leaving a nice marshmallowy pillow in the middle. Lace is gorgeously sticky around the edges. Could maybe be more black around the edge, because it's actually got quite a light brown rim to it.
Smell is beautifully Cascadian, with gorgeous floral hop character, so much pineapple, citrus and sherbet with cakey malt and cocoa underlying, just for good measure. But it's predominantly IPA-esque, floral, grassy and citric. Just a delicious aroma, a cracker.
Tastes pretty decent as well. Lots of roasty malt on that though. Very chocolatey throughout palate, especially on the front and mid. Mid-palate then takes on big hoppy characters with nice grassy notes and citric tang. Quite bitter with a zest to it and a slight flaxy flavour. If I have a criticism of this (and I do) it's that the feel is very dry. Body overall is quite foamy; fairly solid as well but just leaves so dry and doesn't really need to.
A very pleasant flavour harmony here struck between light and dark shades. The flavours of dark-bitter from the roasted malt and fresh-bitter from the hops just work together nicely. The resultant beer is very enjoyable, and an indictment of why the India Black Ale (that's my preferred terminology; sue me) is the style of the moment.
74 / 100
Pours a certainly dark, almost black colour, with a reddish tinge around the edges. Head is frothy and bubbly and extremely voluminous, leaving chunky and solid lacing around the glass. Something about it seems very three-dimensional. There's something solid, real and believable about the beer, and I like that.
Nose, expectedly, is extremely hop-forward, with Cascade citric characters being of course the dominant character. It's true, it smells like an IPA, not a dark ale; very fruity, hoppy with resin, but perhaps with a slightly roasted grain note behind it. The hops are indeed dominant though, and it has a genuine west coast IPA swing to it. It's nice.
Taste is where this beer, and the style in general, comes into its own. Initial fruity and lightly spicy hop hints come through robustly, but almost immediately a dark, roasted character wells up to remind us that this is where the beer is at, really. It ends up lending a cherry-kirsch kind of bite to the beer - the deepness giving an astringency to the otherwise dry and fragrant hop bite. Finish is very dark and rather confrontingly roasted and bitter. Surprisingly, the bitterness on the back certainly comes more from the roasted grain than from the hops. Feel is rather light, although if it were thicker, it would be harder still to place this as something other than a heavy stout.
This is a very complex and deep beer; one that requires respect and recognition. While, unsurprisingly, the dark and the hoppy characters jangle against each other uncomfortably, they also create a kind of harmony that is hard to ignore, and which demands recognition as a unique style. A fascinating brew.
58 / 100
Pours a dark murky brown, but not very dark; visibly brown. Head is ochre, nice dense bubbles, no lace though. Looks like a standard dark beer. But good.
Nose is very nice, loads of chocolatey malt, some cola hints giving slight sourness and a fair amount of oak. Yeah, nice woodiness and sweet chocolate aromas. It's not a punch in the olfactory but very decent. I like that, I really do.
Taste is fairly standard and a bit of a letdown after that smell. Roasted malt with hints of wood smoke, tobacco, some espresso grinds and maybe a hint of burnt sugar. Actually richer on the front than the mid, and most of the roastiness on the back. Lacking in the chocolate that was promised on the nose. I guess not as sweet as I'd like, but also just not impressive enough, has bland roasty character for the most part. Decent, a bit sour, dark without power. Couldn't drink this every hour.
Mouthfeel is a bit thin in the mouth, but nicely soupy going down. Not bad.
Yeah, a decent enough dark, but another underwhelming effort from BrewDog. Marketing itself as an India Black Ale, the Shawn's Fault from Murray's Brewing is a far superior beer - it really has all the best characteristics of the IPA/dark blend. This one here, it's all dark, but not even enough of it.
83 / 100
Ooh, such excitement surrounded this, I'd had a month of FebFast and hype leading up to the pivotal moment, drinking it the first day of tapping at the Local Taphouse. I was of course setting myself up for a fall with the expectations, but tried to stay objective.
Pours a dark colour, inky with a burgundy red tinge around the edge. Head is dark mocha cream-coloured, densely packed together and sinks to a thin film. The film sticks around well though. Lace is pretty impressive, gorgeous stickiness around the glass. A great-looking dark beer.
Nose is very sweet at first with huge tangy hops on it. An intense sherbet character with notes of pineapple, lemon and honey. A slight chocolatey undertone is revealed, just in an underlying richness, but it's all overlain with a really fresh, floral hoppiness. Overall sweet but not overly so, really unique and interesting aroma. I like it a lot.
Taste is more of the same but lessened. Lots of that tangy hop with more lemon sherbet notes, pineapple and a dollop of egg custard (flavour, I mean). Black roastiness comes through towards the back, very subtle with some dark chocolate notes, and a very slight charred meat sourness. Kind of falls slightly short on the finish as far as roastiness but is helped by a lingering hoppiness which is good, but could be a bit more bitter to cleanse.
Mouthfeel has a fair amount of body in spite of being a bit thin. I guess I'd call it slick, goes down very well but not without making its presence felt.
This is a really interesting brew, a nice balance between the pungent hop freshness and the deeper notes of the dark malt. Hugely drinkable, everything is in moderation but enough to give you a taste ride. I approve heartily of the attempt at brewing something different. I don't blame Shawn, I applaud him.