70 / 100
Ah, IPL, the forgotten style. The bastard stepchild forgotten in the new world. Come to Jez you poor, unhappy soul. I will give you your home. 440ml can purchased from Beer Cartel for Xmas for me by Sam.
Pours a pleasant light golden colour, with an initially pretty frothy head of rocky white that settles out leaving some coarse lace and a filmy residue on the top of the beer. I'll be honest, it doesn't look that dissimilar from a well-made if uninteresting lager you'd get at the local RSL. Looks okay though.
Nose is very pleasant. Surprisingly, it's much in the oldskool West Coast style—heavy on the citrus. Juicy orange is noticeable, with perhaps a more incisive green NZ hop character that lends a little more of an organic note as well. Mostly, it's sharp—the combination is good. It's citrus, predominantly, but nicely crispened with a brighter note of pine and herbal aromatics.
Taste is crisp, well-made, and a little bit pedestrian. There's a flat normality to the malt, which is slightly grainy but otherwise fairly inoffensive. It's the kind of underwhelming base that suits the beer, without being inspired. The hops, which should be the focus, are fine, but again pretty much par for the course. there's a semi-sweet citrus bite, a slight uptick in crispness towards the back, and enough bitterness to make you remember who's boss. But it does feel a bit like a box ticking exercise—there's little in the way of secondary aromatics or undertones to really make it shine.
Feel is crisp. Again, perfectly suitable without making me weep with joy.
Overall, I'm satisfied, but beers like this can and should excite me. This is as good as the bare minimum for the style (which is still good!), but Pirate Life are well-versed in what hops can do, and this feels below par for what it should have been.
41 / 100
330ml can purchased for me by Sam as part of my 2018 Advent Calendar. Reviewed blind.
Pours a slightly hazed, very, very pale yellow, almost trending towards transparent. Head is very coarse-bubbled, only really persisting as a foamy, insubstantial ring. Carbonation is minimal, but sweeps upwards in small streams. Body is very light. It's a bit underwhelming, to be honest.
Nose is actually quite pleasant. It has a slight lagery yeast character to it, which provides a sharp crispness to the beer overall. On top of this is sweet lemon and even a brut grape-like note. The lemon does take on a slight detergent edge, but the overall aroma is a little bit flat, so it never gets overwhelming.
Taste is sadly quite bland. It tastes like it should have the clean crispness of a lager, but it fails in some disappointing ways. For a start, despite the look, it's extremely overcarbonated, and the fizz really knocks out any characters that might otherwise be here. Secondly, there's an unpleasant dirty yeast character which wells up on the finish. Just when you think it might end crisp and clean you get notes of grain husk and mushroom. Otherwise it's underwhelming—the fact that the main characters are a bit unpleasant is a shame.
Feel is the main issue here. It's extremely light and yet bursting with aggressive carbonation.
Overall, look, it's not undrinkable, but it's really not that good either. It's really the kind of thing that you can accept if you're sitting in the stands at the cricket, but not if you're trying to really engage with the subtleties and complexities.
On tap at the Royal Albert. Now for some reason I had this notable uneasiness about the concept of a "black IPL"; like I was an early adopter of the idea of "Black IPAs" when everybody was decrying the illogical style naming so there's no reason for this uneasiness when you just switch it to a lager-style. But then I realised in entering this that the reason is that a style for this doesn't exist. Like, it should really be its own style like black IPA is distinct from IPA, but there just aren't enough of these around. As far as I know, there's one and this is it.
Dark chocolate brown colour, beige head. Small tightly packed bubbles with some decent lacing to it. Colour reminds me a bit of a schwarzbier, which is good. Otherwise standard.
Smells hoppy, mostly; a fair amount of citrus that's a little too pungent maybe. Some slight roasty malt that takes on a slight flaxy and chemical aroma with those citrus notes. Some sweeter tang giving passionfruit is subtle but there; probably a bit too subtle as it could freshen up the whole thing a bit.
Tastes decent, and better than I expected. Has a very schwarzy character because it's quite light bodied, and the roasty malts are fairly thin and light too without any astringency or char character. The hops are also there but welcomely subtle, with just a mild lemony wash over the top; bit of a grapefruit bitter hang to the back which is a slightly duff note but otherwise not too bad. Drinks like a hoppy schwarz and that's a pretty good thing. Especially as I tend to find schwarzes lacking in bite for me.*
*. Note to all the schwarz defenders: yes I'm AWARE THEY'RE NOT MEANT TO HAVE BITE. Doesn't mean they're good or interesting. Seriously, I'm so sick of the same arguments from schwarzbier fans, even imaginary ones. Y'all are the same and so predictable.
Mouthfeel is a little dry with a strong pull from the hops and the roast so it puckers a little, unfortunately. Thin as expected.
Drinks decently; has a fair amount of character but without going overboard and ends up delivering something that can happily be called a lager despite how much the style doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Worth noting as well that Beer Farm do one of my favourite IPLs so perhaps unsurprising that a black version would also be in my favour.
On tap at Old Faithful Bar & BBQ in Perth.
Pours a hazy orange colour, haze is more opaque in the middle but transparent at the edges. Head is off-white, decent when poured but sinks to a thin film. Nice sticky curtain of lace left behind. Not quite as hazy as I expect from something with haze literally in the name, but it looks nice.
Smells great. Big fruit melange with lots of tropical notes: pineapple, mango, and papaya with an excellent citric edge - orange peel and some lemon zest as well. Just enough sharpness to ground it and make it what can only be described as moreish. I keep wanting to smell it more.
Taste is quite pleasant but it leans heavily on those sharp citric hop flavours. Starts out quite fruity but gets very quickly prickly citrus with lemon and grapefruit bitterness that's actually quite acidic. Just develops quite an astringent character that's also kind of metallic on the finish, and it lingers a little too long. It's actually a funny character and I think could just be too much bittering on a lager yeast, so it ends up a little stodgy because there's these fruity citric notes long after the malt has cleaned up and left.
Mouthfeel is a little bitty in the mouth and then quite dry on the back. Drinks fairly well for the style.
Has a bit too much finish, so it ends up not being very moreish. Just needs a cleaner finish and maybe just a fresher hop character, some floral or more tropical notes might balance that stodgy citrus character more.
76 / 100
On tap at the Welcome Hotel during their Queensland State of Brews event for Sydney Beer Week 2017.
Pours a nice gold colour, steady but slow trickle of bead feeding a foamy white head that's dissipated to a cloud. Nice lacing, sticks around well. Looks pretty decent.
Smells nice. Stonefruit flesh, juicy and pleasant with mango and a hint of passionfruit and orange. Light caramel malt touches at the edge. Pretty appealing.
Taste is good too. Light caramelised grain notes upfront that develops some hoppy character midway; peach and apricot with a slight rindy bitterness, somewhat resinous as well. Cleans up on the finish, but lingers with a slight lemon pith bitterness and a mild yeasty note that's nice and dry. Yeah drinks clean, with just the right amount of bitterness.
Not as thin as I expected; really a good texture to it and the carbonation is well padded so it doesn't dominate. Still, fluid and smooth for the style.
Far too few beers like this out there; plenty of flavour but ultimately clean and very quaffable. Almost too quaffable.
60 / 100
Odd proposition, especially coming from the guys behind Yenda Pale Ale - a nitrogenated, oak-aged IPL coming in at 9%, brewed for GABS festival 2017. Good on them for pushing the envelope though.
Pours a red colour, very cloudy and haze. Head is cream-coloured and cream-textured, little pillow of dense foam on top. Looks fantastic, really good.
Smells boozey. Goes decently with the slight cherry note, and a good citrus hop aroma as well. Lemon and pepper, but the booze is dominant, ends up smelling like bourbon really.
Taste is similar, dominated by the bourbon character. some peanutty, grainy malt upfront, with a hint of citric freshness midway but the booze is everything on the back. Slightly woody character but mostly just American grain alcohol. No real cherry character either. Bit meh.
The nitro mouthfeel is nice but it's dominated by hot licks of booze. Tingly carbonation as well, which is a bit weird.
Nitro is good. Oak is good, but otherwise it's just unnuanced and untextured booze. Had potential but the potential drowned in bourbon.
72 / 100
22oz brown bottle purchased from Safeway Bailey Park in Mountain View, CA.
Pours a deep golden colour, almost bronze, with good clarity. Head forms a slightly inconsistent crest of coarse-bubbled white, leaving pleasant streaks of long lace. Carbonation is fine and languid. Looks pretty good.
Nose is generically pleasant: there's a sweet hop character, with hints of lemon, and a fragrant weak tea note. Under this, or when the right aromatics are triggered, there's notes of black cracked pepper and eucalyptus. There's also malt, giving a caramel/toffee sweetness. It all works rather well.
Taste is also pretty solid. There's a clean hop fragrance, turning slightly sweet with turns of lemon and sweet citrus. The malt is a little bit too bold to my mind, and it has a crystal/caramel character which drags it down where it should be light and fragrant. But it finishes light enough, with a thin body in the back, which allows some ephemeral hop characters to have the last word.
Feel is a bit thicker than I'd expect for a lager. at 6.6% it's a bigger beer anyway, but I'd like more crispness throughout, rather than just at the front.
Overall, though, this is a very decent brew. It's nicely put together and the flavours show class and skill in their execution. I'm very happy drinking it.
330ml brown bottle purchased from Slowbeer. This is actually a "Smoked Imperial IPL", but the smoke does become quite dominant.
Pours a hazy, murky even dark golden colour, which ends up looking a bit infested with something. Head is formed from very coarse bubbles, which provide a matrix of sorts, but no real persistence to the brew. Some weak lace. Body looks really quite thick, which is understandable for an 8.2% ABV beer, but not so great for either a rauchbier or an IPL. Hmm.
Nose is very good, however. There's a strong beechwood smoke aroma that provides its basis, but there's a lilting dry hop character that comes through as well, giving a mild citric tone like lemon detergent. It's not unpleasant, and mixed with the smoke it provides a nice complement to the savoury characters. There is a sweetness lingering though as well, that I just hope isn't too prominent in the flavour.
The main, initial problem with the palate is that it's almost uncarbonated. Given that it's also quite heavy, it makes it feel leaden and thick in the mouth. And that sweetness I mentioned? Yeah, it's here, and it further bloats the palate. The smoke is present around the edges, and there's a pronounced hop bitterness towards the back—together, these make the afterpalate rather ashy. Some of this would be ameliorated by some lively carbonation, or a sharper, thinner, more highly attenuated body. But even as it is, I'm not a wild fan.
Overall, this has some issues. The lack of carbonation is a particularly noticeable one, but the thick body is too heavy as well. I would have preferred it if it were about 2 percentage points lower in alcohol, lighter-bodied, and with the smoke providing more of a twist than a spew.
62 / 100
330ml brown bottle purchased for me somewhere in Tasmania by my dad.
Pours a very hazy peach-golden colour, with a frothy, crackling head of white that sticks in long sheeting clumps. Carbonation is pleasantly fine, forming in nice beaded strings. Body is swift and fluid, like it should. It's a pretty good-looking beer.
Nose is a little bit flat for something claiming to be "hoppy", especially since it claims to have the "flavour and aroma of an American IPA" on the label. There's a slight faint floral quality to it, combined with a bleak sweetness that's slightly vegetative. It smells a little like choko or starfruit.
Taste is reasonable though, and it has a pleasant sharpness to it, both from the light crisp body of the lager, and a clean vector of hops through the centre of the palate. The aftertaste is a little flabby though, letting some semi-sweet lager malt sit on the palate too long. As a result, it lacks cleanness in the finish, which is something I think it's fair to expect from a lager, especially a hoppy one.
It's not a bad drop, and there are some nice things in it, but I'd really like there to be a more prominent or characteristic hop note given what it promises. I like it well enough even as it stands though.
78 / 100
On tap at the Royal Albert during their Beer Farm takeover for SCBW 2016.
Pours a clean pale straw, clear with strong bead. Head is white, foamy, decent retention. Looks great. Lagery and great.
Smells hoppy and fresh. Citric, with sharp but fresh tropical notes - mango and pineapple mostly. Touch of sweetish grain. Smells awesome.
Taste is refreshing and pleasant. Slight grain body with a bit of fizz early mid. Hops take over - not quite as pungent as the aroma, with some subtler tropical notes and a touch of clean citric bitterness on the back. Finishes clean, slightly fizzy too. Really pleasant clean drop, refreshing but interesting too.
Maybe a touch too much fizz but it's not sharp, it just foams up and feels a little bloated.
Great drinking lager. Pleasant and refreshing. We need so many more of this type of beer on the market. And far fewer goses. But that's a different story.
Edit: And yes, it really irritates me, too, that the glass is not centred on the coaster in my image.
71 / 100
Pours orange-tinged gold. Small bubbly off-white head. Retains well. Bit of cloud. Yeah looks alright. Pretty good.
Smells fruity: peachy and apricot with mango tinges. Not much else to it; just light tropical fruit. Nice though.
Taste is maltier, big kind of crystal malt flavour maybe? Quite earthy, almost spicy. Touches of tropical stone-fruit at the edges. Apricot, mango and peach. Quite dry on the back. Fair fizz but all on the back where the hops take hold as well. Drinks fairly cleanly but quite bold in the middle.
Tastes fruity, bitter. Drinks well overall; not too much of anything but plenty to like.
On tap at the Keg & Brew.
Pours a pale golden, steady but prominent bead. Head is white, fluffy and nice. Looks alright; head is great though. Actually for the style, cracking.
Smells grainy and unimpressive. Definitely needs more hops for the style. Smells of vanilla, musk, corn and rice. Maybe a hint of citrus but not much. Needs more.
Taste has a big Belgian phenolic hit. Kind of grainy upfront, big husky flavour, sweet caramel then sulphurous midway. Gets dank and phenolic on the back. I'm not really feeling hoppy bitterness though, more yeasty bitter. Which is weird. Tastes lagery, but not India pale lagery at all.
Decent carb texture. Dry and textured as it goes down. Quite nice really, good body.
This is a marketing thing. If you called this a Munich Helles lager I'd be OK, actually it's a pretty nice example. But as something called an India Pale Lager my first and only question is where the fuck are the fucking hops. It's grainy, lagery; quite pleasant even. But not an IPL.
On tap at the Lyric in Soho.
Pours a cloudy pale yellow colour, opaque really. Head is white: small bubbles, retains alright. Some light lace. Looks alright.
Smells floral and fruity. Some light citrus notes, frangipani, touch of white pepper. Not much else on there, but it's appealing.
Taste is hoppy upfront. Big citrus notes with some boiled lolly sweetness. Particularly develops sweet notes late-mid when it starts to dry out, lager style. Has an odd, almost sulfurous note on the back - slightly savoury, almost shellfish-esque - but otherwise pleasant, with a nice lager crispness slightly unbalanced by the hoppy hang (in a good way).
Mouthfeel is fairly light. Touch of fizz which is a but much.
Nice, crisp drop with a good hoppy flavour. Pretty decently made.
I'm going stretch the categorisation of this, given it's a beer based on Kingfisher, that's spiked with curry spices. Tried on-tap at the Quarrymans in Pyrmont, where they had it on as part of their State of Origin series.
Pours a pale golden colour, with some decent streaming carbonation. Nice fine head to it that sits rather minimally on the top of the glass, but which provides excellent full, sheeting lace. Body is light and pleasant. It looks perfectly reasonable for what it's trying to do.
Nose has a little bit of the spice, but is pulled back a lot by an odd vanilla character. To be honest, it's pretty mild all over and doesn't punch you with flavour, either curry-spice or otherwise. There's not a lot going on, but it's not unpleasant.
Taste is a bit better, with a pleasant cleanness and a decent hop bite towards the back. Again the spices are fairly mild, but perhaps psychosomatically flecked with turmeric, with a little heat in the finish. Finish is light and clean, but lacking crispness—it ends up just sort of petering out like drinking a glass of water.
Overall, it's drinkable enough, and it's fairly decent. It's not one of Bacchus's best individual offerings, but it's certainly another spoke in their amazing wheel of flavour.
500ml bottle purchased from Leura Cellars.
Absolute gusher on opening, only pouring with a coarse head of white that eventually runs out of overcarbonated power, settling out to be a crusty crest. No lacing. Body is very light, pale lemon in colour, with a bit of hazing to it. Looks ok—didn't much appreciate all of the beer all over the table though.
Nose is quite pleasant, in a rather generic sort of way. Plain citric hops come through nicely, giving a bit of mandarine, with some underlying cereal qualities. Quite light overall, with really no noticeable sweetness apart from that suggested by some of the fruity tones of the hops. It's quite nice.
Taste is along a similar line, and dried out a lot by the lager yeast, which leaves it very crisp and thin. But above this is a subtle aromatic quality from the hops, giving some more citric tones, a little bit greener here with a slight vegetative bitterness. Carbonation is still quite high in the mouth though, feeling a little bit gaseous and bloating.
The main problem in terms of drinkability is that it feels way overcarbonated. This explains the explosion on uncapping, and the gassy feel. In some way it also makes the crispness a little less prominent—otherwise it would be a really nice, easy drinking beer.