Bottle given to me by Jez; drunk by myself in the depths of Winter.
Pours a lovely woody red colour, mahogany really, clear and real ale-esque. Head is beautiful when poured, big and foamy but it's sparse, and it shows when it sinks to a thin crown. Still nice, off-white but yeah not as big as the picture shows. Lacing is superb. Pretty bloody good.
Smells oaky and rich. Lots of fermentation byproducts with figs, currants and dried apple on there, and a big syrupy sweetness. Touch of acidity but mostly sweet warming booziness. Very pleasant.
Taste is a little less complex than I'd hoped, maybe hasn't aged all that well. Malty and rich upfront that doesn't really develop, so the front half is quite flat. Gets some hot boozey orange notes late, like whiskey marmalade, then some of that rich dark fruit but it's not so vibrant, sort of a bit spicy rather than sweet and syrupy. Still quite thick, in the body, with a hot whisky booze note at the back which is unbalanced, but not unwelcome.
Decent body, but increasingly dry at the back as it gets hotter. Not bad for the style but a bit sharp.
Definitely a nice drop, as most big beers that you age in whisky casks should be (I mean if you've made one that's unpleasant I feel like you've really fucked it up). I do feel like this is a little old and a bit oxidised, so it's not at its peak but there's still plenty to enjoy.
650ml brown bottle purchased from Whole Foods in Los Altos, CA.
Pours a clear, ruby-tinged amber colour with a wispy head of off-white that persists as a thin froth around the edge of the glass. No lacing. Body is quite light, surprisingly—at least light for a >11% ABV beer. Looks decent though.
Nose is extremely estery. Big whiff of banana lollies, with an undertone of cinnamon and sugar, and a pronounced boozy hit. It smells a bit untamed and certainly slightly unbalanced. I'm not particularly amused.
Taste is similar. Huge banana ester characters, that link to an unpleasant solvent-like alcohol hit. There's very little complexity to it, and it absolutely does not warrant the high ABV. It needs more to carry it, and the esters and the solvent like alcohol bite does not do that. Feel is also thin and cutting from the alcohol head.
Overall, this ends up being rather unpleasant to drink—the booze is way too prominent, and there's not enough complexity to warrant it at all. It's as though they fed it pure sugar to bump up the ABV, and didn't care at all what this did to the body, to the flavour and to the drinkability. It's not a very nice beer.
60 / 100
Served by Jez on a brewday someday in the past.
Pours a rude red colour, nice jaundiced head, with visible bubbles. Decent lacing left behind. Nice cradle of bubbles underneath the head too; not bad.
Smells sweet, lots of cake batter and caramel, lots of vanilla and Irish cream character as well. Slightly boozey, nice complex sugar but could use something else to balance it.
Taste is sweet, with some oxidation. Boozey, notes of caramel but a lot of raisins, touch of wet cardboard, yeah feels like it'd be nice enough, but it feels a little bit old. Medicinal slightly too. Quite refined and yet big and boozey. Can't say I love the experience.
Smooth enough, bit of heat on the back though. Decent.
Feels a bit heavy. Also tastes a touch old. Regardless, I don't call it a great beer.
They call this an 'oaked old ale'. I generally think of old ales as >7% but I'll go with what the brewers say. Tried on tap at the GABS festival in Melbourne, May 2016.
Pours an umber colour, good red tinge to it. Slightly cloudy with beige foam crown. Like the colour; otherwise looks alright.
Smells boozey and spiritous with a good belt of oak to it. Bourbon, rum and a hint of vanilla and cinnamon. Slight tang to it as well. Pretty nice.
Taste is also boozey. Oak is fairly strong, giving vanilla notes of bourbon, that develops some rich dark fruit sweetness late-mid. Slightly tart towards the back, maybe a hint of infection from the oak as well? Slightly funky/bretty. If it were really dominant on the back it would be fascinating and cleansing, but it's just an afterthought to a mostly boozey sweet ale.
Full body for the size, feels quite thick actually.
Fair bit to like in this, but not a whole lot to love; just doesn't do anything really interesting with the complexities they otherwise create in spades.
71 / 100
Pours a dark brown with slight red tinge. Head is whispy beige, decent rim of lace. Looks cola-esque. Not bad, but could use more head.
Smells slightly carob-esque. Light cocoa notes with some caramel, vanilla and peanut notes. Touch of star anise as well. Pretty nice, appealing.
Taste is fairly roasty. Some chocolate character with peppery spice, quite dry and fairly strong midway, touch of kerosene late, then finish is fairly strong-bitter, with a lick of alcohol and some choc-berry notes as well. Nice cohesiveness, drinks well with rich chocolate and plenty of nice spice and sweetness contrast. Pleasant drop.
Tingly on the front; maybe a touch of alcohol warmth mid-to-late. Body is nice, with a bit of thickness.
Drinks well, kinda strong but good character.
61 / 100
On-tap at GABS 2015 in Melbourne.
Pours a reddish-black colour, quite clear as far as can be ascertained from the color, with an oily, sticky and glossy body. Head is probably beige, but there's so little of it it's hard to tell. No lace either, and it looks quite flat.
Nose is initially quite oaky, but with an inky, mineral quality to it as well. Some bourbon vanilla but also the noticeable booze of bourbon. Then that sharpness comes through smelling like texta, with an undertone of rye bread.
Bourbon characters on the front give an initial hint of smoothness that sharpens towards the middle, giving an inky, sour and medicinal flavour to the centre of the palate. Back has more of the bourbon smoothness, but with a slight linger of cherry medicine and more chemicals. Aftertaste, despite this, is sweet long after the fact with just a linger of bite.
Feel is thick, slick and spiritous.
A bit much all up, and a lot of the characters feel like they're creating a flavour cacophony. This combined with the booze means I find it difficult to drink. It's not awful though, nor is it a really misguided idea. But it didn't really come off for me.
Pours as black as black gets. Would look amazing except there's virtually no head, just a rim of beige lace. Otherwise great.
Smells sweet and bourbony. Vanilla malty sweetness with a slight oaky character giving slight vinous notes. Slightly tart. Not bad.
Taste is mega-sweet. Way too sweet. Malty with caramel-vanilla blend and loads of oak coming through midway. It's missing that vinous character which could provide some roundness and give it maybe a dark sangria character; as it is it just retains the sweetness. I guess it's cocktaily. I'm not a cocktaily guy.
Body is really quite thick, but welcome. Shame about the sharp alcohol heat on the back.
Boozey, and not beery enough. Kind of unpleasant for this particular beer drinker.
85 / 100
12oz brown bottle purchased from Oak Barrel in Sydney.
Pours a really genuinely thick and cloudy amber colour, almost with a touch of ruby to it. Head is a very fine ring of faint cream, that leaves nice concentric circles of lace down the glass. Carbonation in powdery and languid when tilted. All up, it looks pretty awesome.
Nose is also very good indeed. Firm woody barrel notes give a rich, heavy character, matched with masses of heavy malty sugar and a faint touch of smoke. There's something just a little bit medicinal to it—a little extra booze, perhaps—and it gives it an edge and a bite which helps elevate it above the heaviness.
Taste is also extremely good. It has a really firm caramel richness on the front, mingled with a slightly brighter burnt-sugar/toffee character. But this is only the start of the beer. Behind this comes some lovely boozy notes, a slight hint of smoke again, and a mild bite of cherry and pepper. Encapsulating everything is a very pleasant oak character, giving some vanilla smoothness all around the edges. It's a lovely beer.
Feel is thick and lovely. Smooth, rich and clean—providing the canvas for the beer to show off all its other wonders.
Yep. This is a really cracking brew. It's certainly heavy, but the balance is good, so it doesn't ever feel like too much as you continue to drink it. It has so much to offer, and it wraps it up in a package that means you can appreciate it all.
61 / 100
A collaboration with Cigar City Brewing from Florida. 22oz bomber purchased from Healthy Spirits in San Francisco, CA. Brought back to Sydney where I shared it with Sam, Rich and Chris.
Pours a ruby-tinged orange-amber colour with a fine, slightly pocked head of yellowed off-white. Lace forms in minor specks across the inside of the glass. Body has a fineness to it, but holds it's carbonation in amazingly static thrall. Looks pretty good.
Nose is woody first and foremost, with a maltiness providing the breadth and sweetness. Hints of vanilla and butter are dominant though, with the oak it's one major idea that forces through everything else. It's fairly strong, but not bad.
Taste is rather disappointing. Booziness provides a rather strong tone throughout, while the woodiness doesn't have enough sweetness underneath to really support it. It tastes rather spiritous and a little hot, especially towards the back, while the brittle toffee characters really have a hard time wrenching anything else out of it. Finish is a little metallic and a little buttery.
Feel is nice at least: fairly smooth, but with a pronounced sharpness.
Overall, this is too hot and too much of a mess, without enough character or complexity besides the booziness. It makes it really rather difficult to drink, despite the fact that I can respect the beer as a whole.
2014 edition (or MMXIV, as it says on the label), purchased from Jane's Beer Store in Mountain View, CA. Brought back to Sydney and cracked open with Sam.
Pours a rather clear but deep red-maroon colour, with a very fine head of yellowed off-white that sits in a coarse ring around the glass as time passes. Lots of streaky lace. Body is thick and heavy, as it should be. Looks pretty damn good.
Nose is rich and sticky, but with a very pronounced booziness that makes it seem heady, and almost warns me off drinking it. It lends almost an acetone character to the brew. Other than that, there's a fair bit of caramel and carob giving a richness that will probably come to dominate over time.
Taste is very similar. In fact, there's a booziness that runs through it from start to finish which is difficult to ignore, and indeed almost difficult to extract much else from underneath it. Sharpness on the back suggests hops, but it may be the astringent characters of the booze. Around the edges is a slight sweetness: but it's a heavy sweetness even so—the flavour of port rather than the flavour of candy.
Feel is heavy. It suits it well enough, and will support it well as it ages, but with everything else going on it's still a bit much.
I probably drank this too young. This is raw, boozy and deeply aggressive right now. With age, it will mellow, and hopefully become tamer, more complex and more accessible. A little sweetness, perhaps a touch of oxidation, and some smoother characters all over and I could belive this is a lovely beer. Right now it just jumps out of the glass and strangles the palate.
76 / 100
275ml brown bottle, only sealed with a cork that required a corkscrew. Purchased from Healthy Spirits in San Francisco. Prominently marked as "Bottled in 1998", that was probably enough of an incentive to pick one up and give it a try.
Pours a completely flat brown colour with just a bit of bubbling perturbation. Body definitely has some weight to it, but otherwise it looks extremely old. I definitely believe it was bottled in 1998 at least.
Nose is also very old, but it has actually held up rather well. Very oxidised fortified wine character. Plenty of port, wine cork, oak and flat chocolate. Stacks of booze as well, giving a rather sharp tone to everything. It definitely smells old, but it has lots of complexity even still.
Taste, if anything, is better. It still has overtones of oxidation, and plenty of sweet dark wine characters, but there's a fullness to the palate that I really wasn't expecting—plenty of malt sweetness, vanilla, some chocolate and toffee. Slight acidity on the back completes the picture really nicely. Feel is a little bit thin, and accentuates the acidity somewhat, but has more structure than I'd expect.
Overall, it's genuinely pretty good. And better than that, the age has made it odd in unusual and very interesting ways. I'm not sure if it was really great when it was young, but it's certainly a pretty compelling experience when it's old.
22oz bomber purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA. Brought back to Sydney and shared with Sam and Rich.
Pours a slightly hazed, but pleasant deep orange amber, without a great deal of carbonation, and without much propagation of head, even when poured vigorously. Body looks pretty fluid, but what carbonation it has hides in a fine mesh when tilted, making it seem a bit thicker than it is. Looks decent enough.
Nose is quite spicy, and perhaps a bit woody: certainly with a little Old Ale-style oxidation to it. Some nutmeg and brown sugar, a touch of something a little sharper, perhaps cinnamon or allspice, even maybe a suggestion of dried ginger. It's interesting.
Taste is similar, but with a true lack of sweetness. This means that while there's more of that nutmeg and cinnamon richness on the front, the back just drops off, leaving the spices sitting exposed and astringent. It also makes it feel slightly solvent-y on the back: certainly sharper and weaker than it should be. Feels very dry on the finish, leaving nothing in the feel except a bit of heat and that prickle from the spices.
Overall, it's not bad, and there are certainly interesting things to it. But it doesn't work as a whole, and feels a bit harsh on the back. Not something I'd want to drink a lot of, but something I'm glad I experienced it once.
78 / 100
An Old Ale, oak aged and brewed with wild yeast. Sign me up! 330ml brown bottle purchased from Leura Cellars by Sam.
Pours a fairly clear red-brown, with a fine, firm head of beige that leaves superb streaks of lace. Body is solid, and holds fine swirls of carbonation. Looks really nice.
Nose is sweet-tart, with funky esters over an almost candy-like acidity. Oak comes through, as does a suggestion of chocolate or cocoa, giving it that really nice balance between acidity and darkness. Extremely pleasant.
Taste is smoother, sweeter, with banana aromas and a slight roasted tone on the back. The roasted character gives it a bite on the back, and punctuates the acidity. Lingering medicinal tones work well with the residual tartness, leaving it slightly astringent, but quite refreshing.
Feel is good. Smooth on the front, but with a tannic bit on the back.
Overall, I really liked this beer a whole lot. It had a lovely blend of sweetness, tartness and roast, and used them together to create stacks of interest. Certainly something I'd seek out again.
On tap at the Gertrude Hotel during Good Beer Week 2013.
Pours a dark brown colour, fairly murky. Head is beige, decent density. Good retention. Looks great.
Smells sweet, buttery and malty. Big toffee character with a bit of roast. Not a lot of apple, or tart character, which is more what I was expecting. Bit pedestrian.
Tastes sweet and caramelly again. Bit more acidic though, with a touch of balsamic. Some apple, grape, cocoa and cinnamon. Not bad, but could use more of the tart fruitiness that the advertising material states.
Decent body. OK texture.
Decent enough beer; could use more apple character in there but I'm enjoying it enough.
On tap at Top Hops beer shop in NYC. Reviewed straight onto the site via mobile. Apologies in advance for typos.
Pours a vibrant but slightly murky red colour, a bit cloudy. Head is big, creamy and dense with gorgeous sticky lace. Looks big and bold, but neither too big nor too bold. Just right.
Smells sweet and spicy, with an odd tangy character as well. Cinnamon, orange peel blend with the rye whiskey and oak which is quite strong. Bit boozey, but pleasant.
Taste is hot and boozey from the get-go. Big whiskey flavour with vanillin oak and some rum toffee. Lots of malt underneath helps to pad it but the dominant flavour is unmistakably oak and whiskey. Sweet, warming and big. Yeah it's a big 'in. But not a bad 'un.
Mouthfeel is a little hot and boozey, but fluid and fairly smooth.
For all its flaws, it doesn't turn be off nearly as much as it might have. Big flavour, a little lopsided but smooth enough overall.
77 / 100
Tried on-tap at Toronado in San Francisco.
Pours a deep claret red with some flecked hazing. Body is extremely solid: it wouldn't be any other way. Head is an off-white beige colour forming a bubbled ring around the glass. No lace and no visible carbonation, although it forms a sheeting cascade when tilted. Overall it looks complicated, but good.
Nose is excessively complex, and wanders into some strange directions: hoisin sauce, plenty of oak, port, roasted characters, treacle. It's very rich, very interesting. Some tannic red wine comes through as well, and a slight salt/savoury aroma. It's intense.
Hot entry on the palate, plenty of booze, brandy and cherry wine. By the mid palate the heat as settled down a little, leaving a richer sweeter flavour: caramel, treacle and a slightly eggy custard character. The back is dried out by the oak and some of those tannin notes. Sweaty finish.
Feel is intense: hot, but thick. Heavy, rich. Yes.
This is extreme stuff. It's hot, boozy and harsh, but compensated for with its raw intensity, complexity and boldness. I really liked it.
60 / 100
Pours a very dark brown, mostly black. Head is a nice beige, just bubbles around the surface - at its most dense have a nice crema look to it. Lace is decent at first but doesn't stick around. Not bad at all.
Smells pretty boozey. Dark, yeasty, almost vegemitey aroma with a touch of peppery spice, dark chocolate and burnt toast. But yeah, very yeast-extract kind of organic aroma all over the roasty grain. Not that impressed, to be honest.
Taste is not as boozey as I expected at all; in fact it's quite uneventful. Quite dry, with light notes of caramel, some bisscuity flavour, just grainy and slight vanilla notes. It's really quite drinkable, but primarily because there's not a whole lot going on there. Decent, though, just not very exciting. Largely sweet, but enough to balance.
Very thin and empty on the feel. Definitely lets it down here, because some more presence on the tongue would make up for some of the palate's shortcomings. Amazingly not hot for 8%, but there's just nothing really to it.
Drinkable, fairly unexciting beer. Sessionable as hell for a dark 8% beer though.
75 / 100
500ml bottle purchased from Leura Cellars.
Pours a pretty opaque and slightly reddish black (if you can have such a thing), with a pocked, large-bubbled faintly tan head. This dissipates quickly, only leaving a skeletal structure of big bubbles around the deep, black interior. Body looks somewhat heavy, somewhat fluid: it certainly doesn't have much stickiness to it, but it has some heft and hold very fine carbonation. It looks good.
Nose is rich, dark and roasted, but with plummy dark fruit undertones. Mild milk chocolate sweetness comes through, brushed with a liquorous, boozy brandy character. As often is the case with Haand's beers, there's a lick of smoke to go with it as well, giving a heartening, warming feel to the aroma overall. It's very good stuff indeed.
Taste is a lot lighter than I was expecting, with surprisingly little thickness or sweetness. Mild roasted characters come forward, with some cocoa-chocolate notes later on. Some faint cherry flavours round it out, but the back really just drifts away smoothly, and doesn't leave much of an impression on the back. Booze is well-hidden on the palate, though, without much prickle in the feel or heat in the flavour—the only hint is in the aroma.
Overall, I do like it a good deal. It's smooth and flavoursome, without being particularly heavy or bombastic. The faint Christmas overtones are there, but they're not overt, and it makes the beer feel more subtle and refined than it might have. Good stuff.
77 / 100
Bottle purchased from Plonk in Canberra.
Pours a deep, deep brown. Dark and ominous in the centre, with a solid deep toasted edge. Head is a reasonably frothy and solid crest of mocha bubbles. Not much lace, but there's solid residual liquid when swirled. Fine, delicate carbonation forms as the glass is tilted. Looks really good.
Nose is dark and toasty, with lashings of oak and dark smouldering whiskey. There's a slight peppery twang that comes up as it warms, or perhaps vaporises out of the heady alcohol. It's a dark, oaky, delicious beast.
Taste is also good, and aided by a lovely slick, almost oily smoothness. The toasty notes are still present, but the richness of the wood and whiskey is lost a little bit from the nose. Back feels certainly a little bit empty after the depth on the front, but accentuates the volatile booze character that seems to evaporate in your mouth along with the flavour.
Overall, this is a nice beer blended and executed very nicely. By coincidence, my scores for the Ola Dubh series rise as the age of the whiskey barrels do. I'd love to say that it was intentional.
84 / 100
2011 vintage, tasted at the Tasting Room in Portland in July 2012.
Pours a deep black, heavy and oily at the edges that seems opaque, although whether from haze, or just the depth of colour, no-one will ever know. Head is a slightly yellow white that forms a filmy fine ring around the edge. Doesn't leave much lacing, but the body leaves legs as it's tilted. Looks remarkable.
Big, big aroma: booze, coconut and vanilla, and tonnes of straight, spiritous bourbon. Sharp, brusque and powerful. The oak character gives a hint of wine as well, which is a pleasant counterpoint to the big, boozy sweetness. Amazing stuff.
Light burn on the front of the palate, with a sharp hit of spirits. This melds later into smoother notes: chocolate, oak, port and a brusque earthiness that becomes dominant later, leaving a hint of oxidation and wet cardboard. Some cream characters bring up the rear. Aftertaste is very hot.
Feel is surprisingly light: certainly lighter than you expect for all the richness on the palate. But it maintains that burn from the booze meaning however the texture, you feel this beer all the way down.
I had this side-by-side with the Matt, and this was clearly the lesser of the two (although that's comparing something to near-perfection). This was sharper, crisper and harsher. But there's no doubting the complexity and scope of both these beers. They are truly impressive examples of the craft.
Pours a very murky, Hellish red colour. Head is a thing of singular beauty, with the red beer giving it a vibrant orange-cream glow, small bubbles packed tight into a gorgeous foam, retaining a couple of fingers with sparse bubbling on top. Bit esoteric, but it's among the most instantly seductive beers I've seen.
Smells very American. Full of things the Yanks love. Caramel malt, with spices, rye and booze. Plenty of citric hop, pepper, chestnut and candied orange peel. Hint of sherbet and tobacco on the back. Bit intense, like a chocolate orange liqueur, but very intriguing. Beguiling is probably a bit too generous, but there's a certain mystifying charm no doubt.
Taste is not quite the taste I was looking for. Big orange citrus flavour upfront with a big astringent note that mixes with tobacco notes midway and steers away to an unpleasantly bitter finish. A bit tart and very spicy. Grains of paradise and capsicaian on there, but it's really just a big boozey Grand Marnier-esque flavour. Bit too rich and earthy, could use some cutting from some more hops - NZ hops, even.
Big foamy texture, and really rather boozey and hot. Quite a bold, sweet, almost sticky presence, then a very dry and boozey strength at the death.
Interesting drop, but at times just overwhelmingly boozey and liqueury. Very intriguing, but I'd just as happily pass.
61 / 100
Purchased from A&W Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA. Brought back to Sydney and shared with @LaitueGonflable.
Pours a reddish, burnt ochre colour, quite cloudy and opaque. Head forms as an incredibly fine but incredibly voluminous majestic crown of yellowish off-white. Minimal lacing, but the body is exceptionally thick and silky. Really, it looks quite amazing, especially for a beer of this ABV.
Smell is deep, and boozy, and to be honest, not much else. There are hints of the oak, but it's hidden behind the almost vaporous boozy headiness coming off it. Some mild, slightly funky fruitiness, and a dusty or polleny character on the back. It's good, but it's unapologetically coarse and large.
Taste is also in that vein, with a big boozy astringency throughout almost the entire palate from start to finish, almost burning the throat as it goes down. There's fragrant sweetness all over it, but in some senses it's missing all the sweetness it needs, instead, you get the medicinal booziness with no substance. I can't help but feel that it's pointlessly large, and without real merit.
Feel is tight and silky, but pummelled with that pointless alcohol astringency on the back.
Overall...? I mean, it's an impressive beer. There's no getting away from its raw power. But it's also stupid. It's a beer that shouldn't really exist. You need something to warrant this high an alcohol content. And this just doesn't have it.
86 / 100
Bottle purchased from Plonk in Canberra.
Pours a murky black-brown, with surprisingly light highlights of chocolate brown at the edges. Head is formed of tiny, creamy chocolate coloured bubbles, and it forms patchy, but streaking lace. Overall, it's a really seductive looking brew.
Nose is wonderfully dense and dark, leavened with strong, slightly peaty whisky overtones. But there's a sweetness and a solidity to the base beer, giving chocolate, dense bread and grain gravity to the brew. The whisky is exceptionally noticeable, however, giving a really lovely accent to the nose overall. Lovely drop.
Taste is actually much less brusque and much less confronting than I expected. Here, the caressing chocolate flavours come forward more, leaving the smoky whiskey spinning languidly in the background, providing a seductive glimpse at something deeper and more complex. It's sweet, it's supple, but it's exciting and mysterious too.
This is an absolutely cracking beer, obviously crafted with care and love. The beer itself is grand, but the whisky barrel ages makes it magical.
Tried this in a blind head-to-head with the 2009 Bourbon-barrel aged version of the same. (This was the 2011 vintage)
Pours a red, metallic colour. Head is off-white; pleasant but thin with a ring of dense cloudy bubbles around the rim. Lace is sticky and slow-moving. Looks nice.
Smells very sweet and nutty, with a hint, but a noticeable hint, of sharp booze. Nutty caramel malt with sticky rye, chalk dust, licorice and Grand Marnier. Interesting tang and twist on a very sweet, nutty beer.
Taste is a bit sweet and syrupy, but also plenty of nuttiness to it. Yet it has an unfortunate honey flavour, with some slight corny sweetness to it as well. Slightly papery in some ways, with the big bold flavours thinning out at the end, drying up the sweetness which lacks the complexities it may have had. Slight lemony tang on the back, but yeah, it's a bit chalky and cardboardy, just not that great.
Decent texture, with an okay stickiness that then gets really dry, almost sharp, late. Feels almost stripped back to its boozey roots.
Has some sense that it might have been great, but it's sharp on one hand, and simple on another. Hot and cold; seems unbalanced.
Tried as a head-to-head with 2011 ordinary Old Stock.
Pours a very dark brown-red colour, little bit of cloud. Head is non-existent, really, just a rim of bubbles with mild cloud and a small bit of lace. Looks heavy, but lacklustre in all the important ways.
Massively sweet and nutty, with an effect I didn't think was possible- sharp coconut. It's coconut so pungent it assaults your olfactory in an almost spicy way, balanced with some coriander maybe? Pepper, vanilla and peanut brittle on there as well, but that coconut is iconoclastic. It makes me rethink what bourbon-ageing can do.
Taste is an impressive - for the most part - sweetness that burgeons with caramel toffee, pecan and some rye notes. Bourbony coconut comes through midway and really invades the late-mid with a hot booze that dried up on the finish, palate-wise. Kind of ends like a manufactured spirit, with the natural flavours getting soaked up by a black hole of booze, although a pinch of that coconut lingers. I don't mind it, but it's a bit hot and just short on the palate; would have liked more exploration of the complexities.
Big and full but that hot booze is a constant companion, from start to finish.
A bit too big for the container - let's just say I can see cellulite hanging out the hotpants of this beer.
79 / 100
2009 vintage drunk at the end of 2011. Bottle added to an order by Chris from Slowbeer in Melbourne to go with some other fine beers ordered for me by @epiclurk.
Pours a lovely gelatinous and heavy bronze-ruby colour, with a fine ring of intense bubbling around the edges. The top itself remains stubbornly free of foam, but some fine carbonation persists when the beer is tilted. Looks good.
Nose is sweet and rich, but beautifully cut through by a slight phenolic bite and the intoxicating hint of boozy alcohol, much like brandy or cognac. Otherwise, we have big notes of treacle, sawdust and slightly resinous notes which give it a brightness to counteract the overwhelming sweetness. It's gorgeously balanced as a result.
Taste is also good, with spicier notes coming in to further prickle the palate. Along with the deep port-like sweetness, this is laced with overtones of hot booze and a calm, muted clove spice. Feel is smooth and rich, but picked up and smacked about by the spark of heat and spice.
This is a lovely beer, and a really pleasant Old Ale, with deep sherry/port sweetness hit with a suitable boozy bite and some light tannins and spice to keep it alert and interesting.
It will probably last for many years to come as well.
90 / 100
2009 edition, purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA. Brought back to Sydney, and shared with @LaitueGonflable comparing it to the 2011 regular Old Stock Ale.
Pours a pleasant deep and slightly hazed red-brown hue, deep like mahogany. Head forms solidly at first, giving a crown of gauzy beige bubbles on the top of the glass, but this settles out to a ring above the thick, toffee-like body. Gelatinously thick in the glass, but very little carbonation, meaning it doesn't effervesce pleasantly when tilted. In all other respects though, it's a very good looking beer.
Nose is spectacularly gorgeous, bringing to bear all the best things about a development in bourbon barrels. Big, smooth, rich sweetness with fragrances of vanilla and toffee. This is balanced by a slight redolent boozy quality, that never gets to sharp or astringent, but adds its potency to the mix, allowing a build up of other complexities. Deep, sweet, luscious. It's a phenomenally good nose.
Taste is similar, with big oaky characters giving vanilla and smoothness, and surprisingly adding very little tannin. The flavours are themselves exceptionally smooth, even though the feel is prickled with a touch of the booziness and a slight fine carbonation. This pleasantly cleans out the palate, without ever compromising the rich sweetness.
Absolutely gorgeous beer, and head and shoulders above the regular edition. This has mellowed, added complexity and integration in equal measures. It leaves it smooth, supple and seductive. This is one sexy fucking beer.
69 / 100
Pours a bright red colour, the colour of fresh blood. Head is beige, fairly whispy with a film and larger bubbles on the side. Lace is not as clingy as it could be, but good.
Smell is very rich and malty. Big complex sugars abound here with brown sugar, treacle, golden syrup and honey. Hint of fig jam and some sherry as well. Bit sweet, it needs a bit more grounding - more hops, nuttier malt, darker malt - just something to make it a little less celestial.
Taste has that nuttiness. All still malty and sweet with complex treacle, brown sugar and raisins. Develops nice, almost savoury nuttiness midway - hints of peanuts and peanut butter and maybe some marzipan leading to the bitterness which is negligable, more of a slight sweetness offset than in possession of any real cleansing quality. Slight sour character late, like strong booze and yeah, just mingles awkwardly with the residual sweetness. Aside from the few flaws, still a pleasant palate overall.
Full, bit of sharp alcohol on the back, gradually increasing carbonation tingle to a conclusive dryness. Not bad.
Nice big beer; the flavours are all pleasant but I feel the balance has slipped somewhere and, in a different sweetness/non-sweetness ratio, this could be amazing.
Cheers to @headlessclown for the sample.
Pours a deep, dark brown, with a filmy head of just off-white foam. Minimal lacing, although some sudsy patterns turn up on the side of the glass when it's poured. Carbonation is extremely fine when tilted, although it races to the surface quite quickly. Looks pretty decent.
Nose is indeed scungy and funky. Big organic characters roar up, with a leaf-mold like funk and a acidic character like green olives. Under this are deeper notes of coffee, blackcurrant and a touch of genuine roastiness, which give an odd counterpoint to a crisply acidic mainline.
Taste is certainly acidic, but a little one dimensional. Crisp acidity through the centre of the palate, with undertones of darkness that strive but fail to really be heard. A little softness on the back cushions the acidity, to ensure it doesn't get too cutting or bold. Finish has more acidity, but also a pleasant touch of nuttiness. Feel is quite light, and the sour character gives it a cutting edge.
An interesting brew, but one that really doesn't strike me as particularly designed or intentional. I do like the sour character, and I like how much it is reined in, but the fact that the other complexities don't quite hit their mark makes it also feel a little bit like a lucky shot.
81 / 100
Purchased from New Beer Distributors in NYC. Brought back to Sydney to have with Rich (@tobeerornottobe) and Sam (@LaitueGonflable).
Pours a lovely deep red mahogany hue, with a slight haze and a gorgeously thick body. Head forms solidly for a 10% beer, although it does become something of a film after a while. It looks devilishly thick and delicious. I'm impressed.
Nose is incredibly boozy, with big oaky, spiritous characters, giving notes of port, brandy and sherry, all quite vinous aromasâthere's a certain latent acidity to it as well. Hints of something slightly darker as well, black cherries or slightly roasted wood. It's a complex and powerful nose, punching you with its power.
Taste is rich and smooth, and not as sharp, acidic or boozy as I expected it to be. Here, there's a soft oak character over everything, and a tingle of vinous acidity on the back palate. Otherwise, big malt sweetness comes through, along with buttery vanilla characters and a touch of dark macerated fruits. Feel is soft and chewy, but not overly thick or cloying.
Great beer. It doesn't shy away from showing its alcohol, but it manages to balance it really nicely. It's a big, sweet and heavy beer, no question, but it's also a delectably drinkable one.
75 / 100
A collaboration with Dark Star brewing, this bottle was bottled October 2010, almost a year before I cracked it open. Purchased from K&L Wines in Redwood City, CA.
Pours a rather light golden colour, with flashes of orang edeep in the glass. Slight haze and a thick body. Head is pure white, incredibly fine, but only really forming in a ring around the edge of the glass. Lacing is everything you want: sticking and complex wherever it's put. Looks pretty good.
Nose is deep, but subtle, with slightly sweet oxidised port notes and a hint of wood. There's a fragrance to it, but it's an oddly organic fragrance, or an aged fragranceâagain it suggests the wood, or something floral, perhaps. Interesting.
Flavour is deep and sweet, with a cleansing astringency on the back of the palate. Although it's a relatively low ABV Old Ale, it manages to capture that woody, boozy heat, the slickness and the depth of a much richer and heavier version. Finish is sharp and it does a good job of clearing out the heavy body. Nice.
A good beer. I've certainly had better examples of the style, but the fact that this plants itself firmly within the style is good in and of itself. Thornbridge have shown themselves again to be one of the most interesting breweries in the old country.
Bottle purchased at Preachers in Hobart. A dark ale brewed with apple juice.
Pours a dark brown, clear in the body in places, with a filmy head of beige bubbles. Strips of lacing down the inside of the glass. Looks decent, although the head is weak.
Weird melange of acidity and darkness on the nose, which mingles to a subtle sweetness like grape juice and carob. A little bit of acidic sharpness is enough to dominate. Eh. Interesting at least.
Taste is similar, but here the acidity starts to get a little excessive. Heavy acidity from the apples, and a lighter body, leaving quite a sharp finish. A little toasty bitterness on the back, but that and the colour is really the only thing distinguishing it from cheap cider. Feel is light and thin.
This one's a big "meh" from me. It's not great. Interesting maybe, but certainly not something to get excited about.
85 / 100
Pours a darkish golden colour, slight haze and great-looking head, cream-coloured with nice dense bubbles. It sinks slowly, leaving pretty high calibre lace trails behind. Yeah looks good.
Smells very malty; darker than it looks as well. Golden syrup with walnut notes and a good belt of cocoa as well. Mostly sweet, but a nice dose of bitter as well, the way good rich molasses are (is?). Hint of some grassy hop but mostly a malt bomb. Nice.
Taste is an interesting one. Seems to take time to get going, with a slight brown sugar sweetness on the assault, then not much until the middle as the strong, complex sweetness takes hold. Lots of nutty notes with walnuts and some dark fruit as well, plum and raisins and of course more brown sugar. Finish has a slight subtle bitterness that nonetheless lasts quite a while. Not much hop flavour, but hints of resiny bitterness. Really like the flavours and the bitterness just finishes it well.
Full body, nice and slick as it goes down though. Damned nice.
A great tasty, hearty beer. Lots of complex sweet flavours well handled.
73 / 100
Pours a surprisingly light golden amber colour. Head is full, frothy and very decent; large bubbled, but leaving good lacing. By the end it's a little filmy, but initially, it's a treat.
Nose is a little musty and cellarlike - it has some of the rustic phenols I associate with a kellerbier. Lots of sweet nut characters as well, and a kiss of milk chocolate. Really quite nice.
Taste is extremely nutty, and the phenols have morphed a little into a rather robust boozy bitterness. Smooth in the body but little other signs of sweetness. Nut skin on the back gives a light astringency. Some hop oil is present too, giving that classic American sharpness. Interesting brew. Feel is lovely.
Some complexity here, but the rousing lack of sweetness and overdose of back palate bitterness make it sharper than it needs to be. Still a tasty brew and an interesting one as well.
44 / 100
Pours a muddy brown colour, very cloudy with just a trace of light at the end of that beer tunnel. Carbonation is slow, but feeding a nice dense cream-coloured head. Good retention. Not sure about the colour but a good-looking English style brew otherwise.
Smells very caramelly with some vanilla and chocolate around edges. Yeah, mostly sweet. Can't detect much else; maybe some grassy hop at the back but not strong. Nice and sweet, not sickly. Could use more of something else though.
Taste starts similarly, with strong malty character giving caramel and brown sugar. Mid palate develops a slight bitterness with some hop character coming through, mildly fruity but largely earthy with some resin and stronger phenolic notes. A bit out of sync with the malt; just doesn't complement the flavour, but turns it a bit dank instead. There's an unfortunate hang, very alkaline with a medicinal edge. Needs something fresher to clean up the back and cut off that trailing, less-pleasant finish.
Texture starts alright but then develops a lot of carbonation sizzle towards the back and gets a bit harsh on the mouth. Needs a bit more body to hold up the flavour, as the fizz doesn't suit the style.
Yeah not my ideal drop of beer. Better than plenty of stuff out there, but as the craft industry grows, that statement starts to become less significant. Because this is now worse than plenty of stuff out there as well. Breweries like Paddys that don't experiment much with ingredients really need to keep up with the taste of the market. That is, if they want connoisseurs like me to keep coming back.
70 / 100
Pours a dark murkey colour, black everywhere except for a red tinge up to the light. Nice bubbly head from the cask, retains pretty well, but after a while sinks to a thin film of beige foam. Lace is awesome though, sticky and thick. Pretty damn nice.
Nose is dark, toasty and sweet. A fair toasted malt character with hints of dark chocolate and a fair licorice fragrance as well. Slightly herbal with notes of fresh bark and some mint as well. A bit subdued actually, but a lot of nice characters.
Taste is quite strong, really, and yet smooth. To explain: starts with a dark malt flavour which develops quickly into a cocoa-tinged flavour with good amounts of dark malt, some oaky character and a bit of cherry, maybe some mint as well. But it's very balanced, and it's a smooth rise and fall of flavour, finishing nicely roasty bitter on the back. A bit lacking on the mid, tastes just a bit watered down there, but it's a very smooth, polished flavour journey, hitting all the right dark and sweet notes.
A bit watery as far as texture goes, but has a presence. I think it's just that firkin soupiness. Firk that.
This is a smooth, enjoyable ale. Strong at times but leaves you feeling mellow and chill.
80 / 100
Pours a dark red-tinged colour with disappointing head, whisps of foam around the top. Lacing is pretty uneventful as well. Seems to be a bit of a musky haze in the brew. Looks alright, but nothing very impressive at all actually.
Nose is very funky, pungent and savoury. Big whiff of beef stock, salty and rich with a large quantity of red wine as well. Slight burntness as well, but yeah it's a bit round, powerful nose, extremely rich and smells like stewed meat drippings, just rich, strong and salty. Not the most appetising, but I'm willing to give this the benefit of the doubt because it's so interesting.
Taste is also rich and pungent, but it's suddenly sweet and malty as a base. Has more of that meaty character with a lot of salt-cured notes and a big umami mid-palate. But there's a strong rich, malty backbone and gets slightly dark and roasty at the back with more saltiness. Cherry on the back plus peppery spice finish off the palate. It's huge in flavour even just sipping it and it demands respect, while for the most part it has a really nice balance to it. Great rich funk countermanded by the thick, sticky malt.
Feels heavy but alcohol is well-hidden. Mouthfeel is thick and syrupy but not overly viscous; dries the palate like red wine.
A fascinating drop with a lot to like and a wonderful amount of ambiguity to keep the experts talking. English patriots may strike me down but due to its dense, complex and polarising nature I'd say this is less Thomas Hardy than James Joyce.
85 / 100
Pours a murky red-brown colour with an almost-head of crackled white foam that stays in large bubbles on the surface. Looks almost uncarbonated, very thick and heavy.
Roasted, intensely malty characters on the note, almost acrid with burnt character and a huge boozy spiritous note of brandy or even whiskey. Slightly smoky, peaty and redolent with wood shaving characters. Even cracked black pepper. Holy crap that's an intense nose. Amazingly complex, amazingly robust and intelligently confusing. Very, very, very interesting.
You feel this beer before you taste it. Slick, rich and melted-toffee thick on the palate. Taste is nicely balanced between sweetness, malt, spiritous heat and a roasted, lightly medicinal bitterness roaring fire on the back. Extremely thick and heavy, with again, an incredibly robust taste profile. This is one hell of a beer to experience.
A sipping beer, and one that will floor you with its intensity if you are unprepared. Very heavy and rich. It has massive complexity and body. You have to give it to this beer, even if just for its pure ballsy grit.
71 / 100
Served from a bar-top cask at the Local Taphouse for their ANZAC Day SpecTapular.
Pours a deep dark red black, like the depths of a Gotham city basement. Crackly head from the cask, with a tight ring staying around. Lots of nice lacing though. Nice enough.
A little leather on the nose, with some smooth ripe freshness to give it a lift. Hints of shiraz-toned oak. Quite muted all over, but what's there is nice.
Nice on the palate as well. Very smooth and incredibly drinkable. Vanilla comes through with a big welling flavour. Very round with a light chocolate malt finish. Mouthfeel good off the cask, as is to be expected.
Very drinkable and smooth. If it's not the most complex beer, it can be forgiven.
72 / 100
Pours a nice orangey-brown colour with a very generous head of beige foam, bubbles are large and visible, sinks slowly and doesn't leave much lace. Head sticks nicely to the glass though. Nice cloud with a few floaties. Would like more lace, but otherwise fantastic.
Nose is very floral, with a lot of fruity notes, pineapple, red apple and a bit of a cakey malt aroma. Slight spicy note, like anise or something, subtly underlying. Pleasantly tangy, maybe a bit lacking in complexity but hits all the right notes.
Taste is quite hoppy, with some tangy, citric hop notes fairly dominant throughout the palate, with bitterness becoming more prominent towards the back, a little bit gritty on the aftertaste but otherwise floral enough to be refreshing. Hints of lemon are quite distinct, and some crumbly biscuity malt flavours as well. A slight buttery note as well which is a bit of a turn-off because it makes it a bit too sweet. But otherwise, the tang & bitterness are well balanced and well used.
A little bit thin on the feel, nice foaminess from the malt but lacks a bit of depth. Suitable for what it is but not fantastic.
Fairly good drinking, shame about that slight dank character on the aftertaste.
76 / 100
Pours a deep, slightly cloudy golden bronze with an initially thick head of off-white foam. Good lacing. Looks very thick from the pour, and static in the glass. Very dangerous looking. Nice.
Fair bit of molasses and rich malt on the nose, with a light citric acitidy and a vaguely fresh hop character. Lilting sweetness. For some reason it really strikes me as having a big New Zealand character. Possibly psychosomatic, but there's something to it.
Very smooth on the palate, with a big, swelling of malt, that dips off just before it gets oppressive. Back palate is a lovely dry hop bitterness that speaks of English bitters. Very delicious.
I enjoy the style, and this is a pretty good example of it. Very rich, smooth, with a hint of booze at the back to remind you to sip it. Nice.
84 / 100
What's not to like about a beer matured in the barrels of my favourite Scotch?
Pours a viscous and sticky red-black, with a nice filmy head of white-brown bubbles, pock-marked with bigger bubbles. Lacing is decent, but mostly it sits silently in the bottom of the glass, looking dormant and dangerous.
Very robust and intense nose, redolent with dark spirits, smoke, oak and condensed yeast extract. Lightly salty even, the compressed darkness is that intense. Certainly some boozy, heavy notes from the Scotch barrels. Lovely, so rich unique and intense.
Very slick, smooth and peat-smoky on the palate. Rich boozy notes, forr of character and extremely interesting. There's a piquant salt character on the palate too, which, with the darkness, add a raw an unique character. Has a very profound depth to it. Mouthfeel is smooth.
Very sippable and extremely refined. This is a beer for taking in slowly. It has some deep characters I've not seen before - I'm sure from the whiskey barrels - and I respect it for that. Very, very complex and enjoyable. I'm a big fan.
77 / 100
Pours very dark, with a very slight brown tinge at the very edge. Doesn't seem to be much of a bead, while head is thin with visible bubbles forming an ochre crown atop this dark matter. Leaves some decent, but slippery, lacing. Looks alright.
Nose is very sour and burnt, smoked meaty characters with a strong pork aroma, hints of oak and baked pear as well, maybe some cumquat characters. Very smokey and insanely dry and desolate, but fantastically powerful. Roasty and burning me up like unrequited love.
Taste is similarly dark, with very strong sour flavours; strong wood smoke, BBQed pork, underripe grape characters, hints of some bitter chocolate and fig, makes my tongue recoil at first, then come crawling back for more because it's intrigued by the mystique and wants to explore it more deeply.
Very interesting palate, slightly gritty and with a definitely pleasant over-roasted character complemented well by some nice sour, woody, organic characters. Doesn't overdo either, just hits you with the power. That's the power of love.
Mouthfeel is velvety and slick, if not smooth. It feels slightly watery but goes down well and sits nicely for a while. Not my #1 choice for drinking, but it's a great beer. Just makes me feel slightly uneasy.
79 / 100
Pours like honey. A deep, heavy syrupy amber colour, with a minimal head of off-white foam. Hell, this is one full-bodied, thick beer. Retention is minimal, but that's not unexpected. Can't believe how heavy it looks.
Lots of roasted characters, mixed with a nutty sweetness, and plenty of booze. Certainly notes of port, oak, a little pepper and lots of heavy, sugary liqueur. Very nice indeed, and incredibly heavy, again.
Thick, chewy and syrupy in the mouth. I'm unsurprised that the first thing I note about the beer is its texture. The flavour is full of rich boozy notes, spirits, port, but with a pleasant roasted character, and a light phenolic afterpalate that helps to clean out the residual alcohol fumes. Phew. Unsurprisingly, the 12.5% ABV is felt in force. Mouthfeel is truly wonderful, with a heavy, syrupy feel mixed in with a light tingle from some hidden carbonation and the alcohol itself.
Heavy as hell. I was surprised I didn't need to consume this with a knife and fork. This was only a small bottle, but I had trouble finishing it alone. Share, share, share, and give some friends a unique beer experience.
83 / 100
Pours a deep garnet brown, with a fine bubbled tan head. Excellent lacing, although the head collapses. Still, with a beer this strong, it was surprising it sprung out to begin with.
Wow, very powerful nose. Lots of licorice, smoky notes and dark tannins. The smoke actually asserts itself more as the beer warms up. Very nice, all up. Lots to appreciate, lots to enjoy.
Very nice amalgam of booze and smoke on the palate too. I wasn't expecting such a rauchy character on this beer, but it's there in force. Initial smoke notes are, however, subdued by the deep vinous heat, rather like brandy, which wells up later in the palate. Mouthfeel is quite thin, really, although it does have a pleasant slickness.
A very tasty sipper. Lots of things to like about this - boozy and dark, smoky but refined. Almost too much to drink a 12oz bottle by yourself. My suggestion is to pour it into snifters and share with friends.
70 / 100
Pours very viscous and heavy - a deep dark brown. Aside from the colour, not unlike its namesake. Lots of tiny streams of carbonation around the rim, feeding a very finely bubbled head of mocha brown foam. Some pancaking on the very top after a while. Lacing is very good. Looks like a very nice beer indeed.
Nice dry chocolate/cocoa characters on the nose, quite sweet, not particularly roasted or charred. A little coffee like aroma later, but it's sweet and dessert like, mocha or tiramisu all the way. Very nice, if not huge.
Nice smooth initial opening; a creamy silky texture with a subtle burnt sugar sweetness. This crescendos to a much darker, deeper and more bitter character, which hangs around with an ashy tone at the back of the throat. Pretty dark by the end - and unleavened by any hint of sweetness - ultimately, it's incredibly dry.
It's a smooth beer, and quite drinkable, but slightly too raw on the back palate to me. Still, it's a very decent drop of beer, with lots of character and some most enjoyable elements.