Kona Brewing Longboard Island Lager

Total Score: 6.95/10 Malt1Honeycomb1Flowers1Stein1

Last in the Kona beers kindly gifted to me by a rep for the purpose of reviewing is: Kona Brewing Longboard Island Lager. Look, I left the Lager till last because let’s face it – I’m not the biggest fan of Lagers in general… unless they have the word “Bock” in them, and they’re really more like Ales anyway. That said – I do know a good Lager when I taste one, and I can appreciate Lagers from long dry Munich Helles to sharply crisp Japanese Lagers, so I’m going to give Kona as fair a chance as I do any brewer and the things I may praise/slam it for are no different to the things I praise/slam in any brew (and my slamming tends to fall into the category of: flavourless or muted). Anyway, cheers to that Kiwi Kona rep – she’s a lovely lass.

Poured from a 355ml bottle into a stein.

A: Crazy carbonation and yeast particles floating around suggesting this may have undergone a few fermentations in the bottle. Apart from that it presents with a pleasing pale straw/golden body and a fluffy white 1 centimetre head that slowly decays to a thin blanket. 6/10.

S: Crisp malts mingle with a honeyed scent and light floral hops, rather dry aroma overall and a touch muted… though as far as American Pale Lagers go this isn’t out of the realm of the ordinary. 6/10.

T: Flavour is light right from the beginning, and it never really leaps out at you, however this isn’t the sort of beer you would expect to leap out at you – it’s a “cold-brew-by-the-beach” type of Lager and when I review these I tend to ask “does it have any offensive or off flavours?”. In the case of this Kona the answer is: No. Profile is: Malty, honey and floral. Finish: Long and dry. Aftertaste: Malty. 7/10.

M: Decent body for a 4.6% ABV brew: Almost medium, with a reasonably creamy carbonation, works well with this style – though it can be a touch cloying for those who like crisper bodies. 7/10.

D: Didn’t mind this one at all from Kona Brewing. They’re no Stone Brewing (so get that notion out of your head), they don’t do big beers, but they do easy brews that go down without being close to mind-blowing, and there’s a niche for that (a pretty damn big niche actually!). I like the fact that they’ve positioned themselves in the Hawaii (i.e. tropical island) beer market as there isn’t a huge deal of brews out there that are both a) great on a hot day, and b) not absolutely bland, so kudos Kona for making something A-OK, mahalo! 8/10.

Food match: I’ve said luau before, so… fish, chips and salad peeps.

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Slipstream Magic Mile Ale

Total Score: 7.2/10 Peach1HopFlower1Biscuit1Nonicpint1

Slipstream Brewing: yet another craft brewery that has opened its doors in Brisbane, which is still seeing growth in the craft beer sector (despite it peaking a couple years ago IMO). This brew Magic Mile Ale I believe takes its name from the stretch of Ipswich Road in Moorooka that has all the car dealerships on it and is called “Magic Mile”… I know: It’s a leap of imagination there on my part. Yeerongpilly, and I don’t apologise for all the indigenously long suburb names (get used to it if you ever visit Brisbane!), is located not far from the Magic Mile, so again – short leap there. As to why they named their beer after a notoriously nefarious mile in Moorooka is anyone’s guess… perhaps they liked a car they bought there?

Poured from a 375ml can into a nonic pint.

A: Hazed golden amber body with a white cappuccino foam 1 centimetre head that ever slowly drops down to a thin lace blanket. Big tick for the haziness in the glass (personal preference there), small X for the boring head and lack of lacing on the side of the glass. 7/10.

S: Peachy/stone fruit upfront, hints of floral/lychee hops, and biscuit malts. Overall aroma is one of a laidback American Pale Ale with the spirit of Stone & Wood Pacific Ale in there as well, i.e. it’s not a S&W PA knock-off (great!) but it’s not hell for leather American Pale either, in other words it’s wishy without the washy. 7/10.

T: Hop character comes out more on the palate with a touch of green herbal hops mingling in with that peachy/stone fruit character, floral and lychee notes. Not bad at all… not blowing me out of the water either – simply going down quite well. Biscuit malt base is a little thin, and TBH more malt wouldn’t have gone astray – I’ve always felt that IPAs can get away with little to no malt flavour but APAs need that malt/hop balance even more. Again this is probably a personal preference on my part. 7/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a reasonably dense and light carbonation that is style appropriate. A touch more body at this ABV (5.5%) would be nice. 7/10.

D: Better than I was expecting from an inner suburbs Brisbane brewery – this craft beer biz is hard graft right? [rhetorical question: it bloody well is and you know it] So I’m always impressed when a little brewer pops up and has a stab at a style that has been done to death and in this case the beer vaguely tastes like Pirate Life – which is an achievement in of itself, cheers Slipstream! 8/10.

Food match: Wood fired pizza, I would go a nice mushroom/truffle pizza with this.

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Balter Black Metal Disco

Total Score: 6.55/10 Coffee1Barley1Chocolate1Nonicpint1

The latest from Balter Brewing is an interesting creature in their line-up: Obviously it’s a Stout – and Balter have thus far shied away from black beers, also it’s not a style one would generally associate with the surfing craft beer drinking community – which Balter has been aiming for from day dot, it’s in a 500ml can instead of their regular 375ml cans – so the packaging has changed somewhat too, and lastly it doesn’t have the style in the name: Black Metal Disco… in Balter terms that’s a big change. However the one thing they have always been known for (in my eyes at least) is brewing smooth easy-drinking beers that less challenge and more ease you into that wet sloppy embrace of inebriated delight, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon with BMD.

Poured from a 500ml can into a nonic pint.

A: Black and murky with some nice dense bubbles forming on the bottom of the glass – that bodes well for a creamy Stout. Head is beige-borderline-tan and soon drops back from 1 centimetre to a thin layer. She looks alright. 7/10.

S: Toasted/roasted barley character from the get-go, touch of chocolate, espresso notes lingering in the background – yep, she’s a Stout alright. Compared to most Sweet Stouts the sweetness is more balanced than usual, there’s a roasted espresso hop character in the finish. It’s only lacking in a bit of complexity and what I like to call “OMPFH”, however Balter tend towards softer brews in general anyway. 7/10.

T: As noted above: Toasted/roasted barley character, touch of chocolate, espresso notes, and towards the finish more of a red coffee cherry flavour – dry and coffee infused bitterness. Here in the flavour department it comes across too easy-drinking, and well… bland overall. Much like the Alt-Brown this is sorely missing complexity and outright flavour. Still it’s hard to stay mad at a flavour profile that is this inoffensive. 6/10.

M: Mouthfeel is alright, mid to heavy, a touch watery, with a dense but almost flat carbonation – it’s a beer that would nitro up really well, and I suspect the reason why people raved about it on tap is because it probably WAS nitro on tap. 7/10.

D: Second major swing n’ miss for me from Balter, however they were simply doing what they do: a rather inoffensive, easy-drinking surfy brew. Make of that what you will, I’m personally not a fan of their beers – they’re far too entry-craft for me, but I can see what they’re doing (and why) and I don’t dislike it. 7/10.

Food match: Meat pie this mother up… that sounds weirdly wrong. Pie it.

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Bacchus Brewing King of Denmark

Total Score: 9.2/10 RedWine1Wood1Vegemite1Tulipglass1

Yet another Bacchus to wet my whistle (my whistle gets dry a lot and for some reason beer is the only thing that will successfully lubricate it… I sometimes drink the stuff left over once my whistle is wet too). Anyone who follows my reviews might think I have some sort of love affair with Bacchus (I’ve reviewed 17 Bacchus beers so far), but Head Brewer Ross Kenrick just seems to keep pumping out interesting brews, so who can blame me? This one is an English Old Ale brewed with a +200 yro yeast strain from Harley’s brewery in Sussex, England. The beer has been barrel-aged (as Old Ales typically are BA’d) for 12 month in oak. Some Old Ales are blended but in typical Ross fashion this is unabashedly a straight-up 9.5% beast.

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Wow, almost tepid looking black goop with a khaki head that rapidly recedes. The most amazing thing is the powerful aroma wafting straight out from the second the bottle was open – even before I saw this beer it was bitch-slapping me with aroma! Ominous looking in the way that Mikkeller Black Buffalo was… I’m scared, please hold me… 8/10.

S: That aroma! It’s really grapey, like a good Flanders Red Ale, but dialled up to 11. There’s no getting around how in my face this beer is going to be. If I could articulate this pervading fragrance better I would say: Red wine grape must, woody oak character, hint of vegemite, and a touch of decomposing fruit… yes, it’s the beer equivalent of stinky cheese and I love it. 10/10.

T: All of the above: Red wine grape must, woody oak character, hint of vegemite, and a touch of decomposing dark fruits. As far as flavour types go we’ve got: Sweet, bitter, sour and umami, which would sound like a real discordant clash of flavours, however the balance here is symphonic. This isn’t just a beer – this is an experience. Wow, again for emphasis: Wow! 10/10.

M: Mid to heavy bodied with a peculiar carbonation that is almost non-existent yet also quite prickly and gassy – I suspect this carbonation is down to the crazy-old yeast strain (though Weihenstephan have much older yeasts strains in their brews). 7/10.

D: This is a beer that, like a Flanders Oud Bruin/Flanders Red Ales, blurs the line between beer and wine whilst taking a piss on everything else and setting it all on fire. A challenging beer indeed, but one to be savoured. 8/10.

Food match: Wow, I’m savouring this beer alone, but a cheese platter if you wish.

 

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Modus Operandi Black Lab Milk Stout

Total Score: 7.05/10 Coffee1DarkFruits1Chocolate1Nonicpint1

Today’s adventure in beer is [dun dun-dun dun-na]: Modus Operandi’s Black Lab Milk Stout. The in-joke with the name of the beer (which I looked up) is due to Modus brewery having an unofficial mascot: A black Labrador named “Stout”. This is of course a clever name for a black Labrador which works on many levels, Stout being another word for obese and Labradors being renowned for being insatiable dogs that will keep eating until… forever. I’ve never met a Labrador that could control its hunger. So this Milk Stout should be pretty well done – Modus are, for me at least, one of a select few Aussie brewers who usually get their beer mouthfeels right, oh yeah and flavour in general. Time to tuck in.

Poured from a 500ml can into a nonic pint.

A: Looks good so far – dense/creamy 2 centimetre tan head that ever slowly compacts down, deep cola coloured body that is probs opaque but it’s always hard to tell with Stouts… wait the head is suddenly dissolving into almost nothing – oh dear! 6/10.

S: Rich coffee cherry goodness with a smattering of dark chocolate, hints of dark fruits a roasty character. Fingers crossed – but it would be amazing if this came within a glimmer of their brilliant limited 2nd birthday release: Caribbean Queen… however that brew actually had loads of chocolate brewed into it, I’m not sure if this will come close, the aroma is pretty standard Stout stuff here. 7/10.

T: Sorta halfway between the (dark) fruitiness of a Baltic Porter and a regular old Milk Stout. Flavours are alright, though it is definitely one of Modus’s more restrained brews with notes of: Red coffee cherries, milk/dark chocolate, dark fruits (prune, raisin) and a long roasted dry finish. Again – decent but not a shining star in Modus’s oeuvre. 7/10.

M: Once again Modus does a great job here – I’ve had a few Aussie Milk Stouts recently and none of them have this nice medium bodied, silky smooth texture. There’s a touch of thinness to the carbonation that detracts from a perfect score but this is otherwise excellent. 8/10.

D: Again with Modus there is an expectation to be wowed out of the gates, however this Milk Stout is proof that not every Modus beer has to be “PHWOAR!” sometimes a bit of restraint can go a long way. In the case of Black Lab this is a nice, easy-drinking Milk Stout with decent texture, cheers! 7/10.

Food match: Welcome to stew country! Irish stew specifically.

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Greene King Strong Suffolk Dark Ale

Total Score: 7.75/10 Caramel1Earth1Wood1Nonicpint1

Greene King, who I am familiar with, we’re not besties but I don’t mind Ruddles County in an English Bitter pinch (cor that is a decent EB undone by being marketed in a clear bottle and said, rightly so, perceptions around that). Where was I going with this train of thought? I really want an English Bitter now… haven’t had one in at least a year… there’s a style I really miss. Oh yeah, I’m reviewing Greene King Strong Suffolk Dark Ale. Twelve Days by Hook Norton is probably my favourite in this style, though I am strangely limited in my knowledge here (given I love anything that is strong when it comes to beer), so whilst I may not be the best judge on the subject of an English Strong Ale, I will give it a red hot go.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Almost opaque cola, deep brown, body with a decent beige 1 centimetre head that sticks around for quite a while and leaves a sticky lace on the way down. Rather intimidating yet at the same time inviting brew we have here. 7/10.

S: Diacetyl off the charts – it’s like toffee had sex with butterscotch and had caramel babies right here! Hard to get past the amount of toffee/butterscotch/caramel in this aroma without my salivary glands activating (yes I love toffee, my teeth seem to hate it though). Not much else in this malt-heavy beer/style… I’m bracing my teeth as we speak. 8/10.

T: Totally not as sweet as expected, and all-round spot-on balanced with sweetness/herbal bitter note. Flavours are: Toffee, butterscotch, burnt caramel, earthy touch, tobacco leaf and slight woody note. Wow, that balance is on point – I suspect this has some age on it, it’s definitely had time to settle in. 8/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a thin/UK pub carbonation, hey it works for this beer and many other English styles – I embrace it. Could use a bit more body. 6/10.

D: Glad I came across this one – it’s really given me an (albeit slight) English Bitter fix and rekindled memories of my own journey through Old Blighty [PS: Scotland rules!]. Will definitely pick this up again as I’m still trying to find places that have English styles in SE Queensland… any suggestions are most welcome. After moving back to Brissy from ‘Berra and having my local go from Plonk (i.e. the craziest huge selection of beer I’ve seen assembled in one building) to having a local that has a decent selection but seriously lacking in English beers… well I guess I miss them brews. TL:DR; Tasty brew this. 8/10.

Food match: Some sort of pheasant, roasted, with gravy, veggies and a Yorkie.

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Six String Ramstein Märzen

Total Score: 4.9/10 RedApple1Barley1GreenApple1Stein1

Don’t mind a good Märzen at all, however it needs to have one important thing for it to qualify as a good Märzen for me and that thing is: Body. Lots of it. With a nice creamy carbonation. Apart from that the flavour can go anywhere it likes – if it ain’t got that body then I ain’t liking it. Six String are a bit of a hit n’ miss brewer for me – their Dark Red IPA is OK, I mean it’s not going to compete with the Modus/Kaiju/Prancing Pony Gods for that ever so shiny Aussie Red IPA of my heart crown, but it’s not shite by any stretch of the imagination. Now their Hefeweizen – that was below-average-borderline-shit… which as a German style has me worried about Ramstein… will it be a disaster? [you can’t see but my fingers are crossed]

Poured from a 500ml can into a stein… a ram-stein perhaps?

A: Hazed amber body with a billowy off-white 2 centimetre head that slowly drops back the pulling lace down with it. The head vanished rather fast and with practically no lace to speak of this doesn’t look great for a Märzen… also the bubbles in the head are big and, in my experience, suggest a lack of body. 5/10.

S: Bit of a one-note cider apple aroma… not much else to it, where’s the: bread, grain, cake and grassy hop character that is often found in Märzens? Apart from the oft-found cider apples I’m getting nothing… this isn’t looking… err, smelling good for Six String. 5/10.

T: Cider apples, yes we expected that, thin body (we’ll get to that), grain spirit mid palate and a grainy dry finish… this beer is more flaccid than a eunuch at a… well: Anywhere really. Not much else to add here… back to the drawing board with this one Six String. 5/10.

M: Mid to light bodied, no creamy carbonation – over gassed for the style. Disappointing. 4/10.

D: Six String really drop the ball on their German styles, but I can’t hold it against them – German beers are deceptively hard to brew. I’ve come to realise this over the past nearly 20 years of drinking them. When I first tried a Löwenbräu Original I got this deflated sense of “really, was that it?”. It’s soft bodied with simple Helles Lager flavours so I didn’t understand until after a hundred-odd Lagers (with terrible watery bodies and gassy carbonation) later. Then I had an epiphany: Damn! It’s actually hard to brew a Lager as good as Löwenbräu: Ze Germans, zey know what zey’re doing ja? Ja indeed my sausage-imbibing brethren. 5/10.

Food match: Speaking of sausage – I could go a knackwurst right now. Mit senf!

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