82 / 100
Pint can purchased in Asheville. Brought back to Sydney where I shared it with Sam.
Pours a pleasant deep dark cola colour, with a thin ring of beige bubbles that persist even after the head fizzles out. Body looks glossy and firm. It's a nice looking beer all up.
Nose is very pleasant, with a lot of those mid-darkness malts coming through to give it grain complexity. I get chocolate, liquorice, carob, caramel and cherry liqueur, but everything is skewed slightly towards the savoury, which actually makes for a very fine depth. I like it.
Taste is similar, but the characters are broken out so you can see the structure a bit more. It's sweet on the front, with light carob and caramel, mingled with a hint of tamarind and date. But it develops through a hint of spicy aniseed into a toasted grain note, perhaps like a heavy grain loaf dotted with dried cherry.
Feel is smooth and glossy, but shot through with that hint of cherry acidity. It's nice.
A lovely beer to drink, and one which allows its complexities to shine. It's really nicely made, and I'd love to drink it again some time.
62 / 100
Pours a brownish orangey colour, cloudy and a bit dirty looking. Head is jaundiced off-white, whispy-looking with large bubbly foam all around. Decent cascade as it's tilted and good retention. Lace is pretty thin though. Bit odd; pale and yet murky.
Smells nutty. Malty sweet with peanut and hazelnut character. Subtle coconut oak character as well, that gets less subtle when you whiff deeply and look for it. Not much else; feels a little thin for the style.
Taste is a lot better and bigger. Malt character upfront develops some strong coconut bourbon oak notes midway, with some chestnut and peanut characters that get somewhat savoury late-mid. The vanilla coconut sweetness dominates the back with a raw booziness which gets unfortunately strong. Nutty on the finish and slightly too hot, but otherwise a nice oaky palate.
Deceptively thin upfront, that crescendoes in a raw and harsh boozey finish. Definitely needs more body.
Some really quite pleasant flavours but a bit too strong without the balance or the substance in the end, so it feels a lot heavier than it really needs to, or should.
Pours a dark brown colour, some colour at the edges but otherwise just darkness. No parents. Has a head of varying shades of beige that has a gorgeous cascade when tilted and good foamy retention without too much to it. It's a genuinely good-looking head; it's actually fun just to play with it.
Smells pretty intense. Caramel but roasty, with a spiritous strength to it. Maybe some oaky tannins, and a dark fruit character as well. Sultanas and brandied cherry. Bit full on but pleasant.
Taste is a bit of a journey. Starts quite dark, roasty; bitter even for a front palate. Develops lots of dark fruit midway, with sort of undulating peaks of flavour that are somewhat tart, with sultana, currants and maybe a clementine kind of sweet-tart note as well as cherry. Gets some oaky-vanilla and caramel on the back as well as some dark chocolate to finish which gets slightly roasty-bitter as well. There's an odd kind of petroleum character late which might just be spiritous boozey finish mixed with dark bitterness; it's a bit of a duff note in an already crowded and odd palate.
Smooth mouthfeel, with a slight lick of heat and rawness towards the back. Alright.
Drinks a little heavy with some funny notes that make me question whether it's a bit oxidised or potentially even infected. I suspect neither, but there's just some flavours that don't quite belong. Overall quite rewarding.
72 / 100
12oz boxed squat brown bottle purchased from The Willows Market in Menlo Park, CA. Shared with Sam back in Sydney. 2017 vintage.
Pours very murky, almost amber in colour rather than brown, with a coarse-bubbled head of yellow-tinged beige. Lacing forms in tine specks, but not much more than that. Body is thick, with lots of static carbonation when tilted, which eventually scrambles to the surface. Looks okay, although the colour is surprisingly light.
Nose is quite boozy, but in a pleasant, well-incorporated way. There's enough malt to support it, and the strength of it lends it to characters of aniseed and cracked black pepper. It has a touch of something papery at times, but this weirdly morphs into a pleasant note of cinnamon. It's quite nice.
Taste is similar, and it settles down pleasantly to a chewy kind of malt mid-palate, just laced with overtones of the aniseed and booze. The back is a bit hotter, with a sharp twang from the young alcohol. And it does finish extremely boozy, almost heady in its immediate intoxication. There's no denying its strength at least.
Feel is hot and surprisingly dry. It weirdly works, especially given the heat and booze on the back-palate.
It's definitely still young, and I'm sure it will appreciate a little more time in the bottle. As it is though, it's raw and rugged, and it demands your respect. Maybe I'd like it more when it's less headstrong and more mellow.
49 / 100
22oz brown bomber purchased from Whichcraft, Austin. Shared with Sam back in Sydney during a brewday.
Pours a very deep brown-black, almost certainly dark enough for a porter, and arguably almost a stout. The thing that saves it is the head which is the colour of milky coffee. Lacing forms in tiny specks with a little bit of cobwebbing. Carbonation is very fine and languid, although the body surprisingly looks a little lighter than expected.
Nose is toasty, but also really rather buttery, with a big oaky sweetness that railroads everything else. It has a twang of booze, but the sharpness doesn't manage to cut through the oak, and even a hot punch of alcohol would have provided some balance. I'm not a huge fan.
Taste is very similar. In fact here the butter oak is almost cloying in intensity, especially towards the back of the palate. There's a rough, dark malt character on the back, which might have provided some balance in a darker beer. But here it's too weak, and too coupled to an overt sweetness in the beer itself. Towards the finish, there's a hint of raisins, which is nice, and manages to provide a slight relief from the non-stop onslaught of buttery sweetness.
Feel is smooth and slick, with a bit of heat towards the back.
Overall: I get the idea, most certainly. But I'm unconvinced it's been well-executed, and the oak it just miles and miles out of balance with the rest of the beer. If the oak's going to be this prominent, it needs to also be matched with a bigger, more aggressive beer. This one just can't stand up to it at all.
12oz brown bottle purchased from Leura Cellars. Bottled in April this year, so it's about 3 months old.
Pours a dark but watery brown colour, with a fine, bubbly head of beige that only really provides spots of lace. Body is quit thin, but the fine, languid carbonation gives it the suggestion of weight. Looks decent.
Nose is wonderfully sharp with mild-roast coffee. It has a pointed crispness from the beans, but the overall impression is really quite soft and rounded. There's a good deal of sweetness to it, for a start, and a creaminess that comes from the malt content of the beer. So it's not excessively sharp. I find it rather pleasant.
Taste is a lot more robust—strikingly so, and to the point where you wonder if it really needs a year or so to mellow. It's immediately riproaringly crisp and sharp with bitter coffee; a flavour that combines with booziness in the mid palate and becomes slightly chemical. The malt sweetness is missing here, which leaves an inky quality to the back of the palate—slightly medicinal and bitter.
Feel is sharp and direct. There's a heat from the booze, but a surprising lack of body to cushion any of the other characters.
Overall, it's not bad, but it's a surprising slog to get through it. It's a shame because the aroma is excellent. I suspect it will mellow with age, but at the same time, it may lose some of that wonderful fresh sharpness on the nose. And that would be a shame.
74 / 100
Pours a dark brown colour with red tinge. Head is beige, small bubbly crown. Lace ain't sticking around. Decent, but standard.
Smells sweet, pleasant. Lots of vanilla and caramel with mild floral notes giving good balance. Touch of coffee as well. Pleasant.
Taste is fairly roasty and sweet. Huge caramel character, with English toffee, some herbal medicine character late-mid, floral notes as well. Touch of pear, sherry. Yeah, lots of crystallised sugar and fortified wine. Caramel. Could use a bit more freshing up on the back. But nice.
Smooth, full, somehow very dry on the back though.
Nice desserty drop. Would pair well with some sugar-poached fruit.
750ml caged and corked brown bottle purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA. Brought back to Sydney where I cracked it open with Sam during a brew day.
Pours a deep chestnut brown with a depth of colour that makes it seem opaque. Body is surprisingly light and fluid for such a big beer, but the carbonation is languid when tilted, indicating its strength. Head forms a fairly fine film of beige-brown that leaves little in the way of lace. Overall it looks decent enough, but not as impressive as it might have been.
Nose is barrel-heavy, with a big oaky, boozy richness that actually turns slightly vegetative. Indeed there's not much sweetness to it, and not much in the underlying structure‚ instead there's a lightness like what you'd get from a saison in the aroma. It's not bad, but the characters play against one another.
Taste is actually quite similar, disappointingly. There's a lot of structure here like a nice big, barrel-aged beer—including a well-tempered oak character and a sweet booziness. But the underlying beer really does feel very light. It tastes a little like it's missing body and richness and as a result it feels quite thin. Back has a hint of toastiness, but not enough to provide much in the way of structure.
Feel is also quite thin—again, I could believe that the yeast has attenuated to a higher-than-expected degree here, meaning the beer lacks both sweetness and body.
I'm probably being incredibly harsh on this beer. There's nothing really wrong with it—the oak characters are well-realised, and the flavours are right. But there's something lacking about the concept, about the beer as a whole. In the end it feels like a beer that's just not connected to itself.