Newstead Brewing Liquidambar Amber Ale

Total Score: 7.1/10 Malt1Caramel1BrownSugar1Nonicpint1

Next up on the Newstead Brewing chopping block is this Amber Ale. Now we know exactly what we’re getting in an Amber Ale these days, and that thing is: Malt, malt, malt, and? You guessed it; Malt… and a tiny bit of hops. So really what I’m looking for in an Amber Ale is a complex malt profile and if I don’t get more than three malt flavours I’m getting the hell out of dodge (malt-dodge). As far as Newstead is concerned in relation to the other micro-breweries popping up all over Brisbane like some sort of delightful viral rash, these guys rate a little above average to me (Green Beacon do a better job IMHO).

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: A nice cloudy Russet brown body with a light but dense beige head that soon reduces down to a lace ring. I do like my beers murky but it’s borderline inappropriate for an Amber Ale to have this much haze. 7/10.

S: So far so malt – the nose immediately hits with a frankly quite bold note of malt syrup (if you’ve ever homebrewed you would know this smell off by heart). Following this there are notes of caramel, brown sugar and *BINGO* that fourth malt character FTW: Molasses. It’s rich, wanton and malty on the nose and that’s exactly what you want here. 9/10.

T: Malt syrup dominates the flavour… a bit too much – with hints of caramel and molasses, some light citric hop notes in the background – it’s definitely not as complex as the aroma suggested. However it’s not bad by any stretch either, it’s probably one of the better Aussie Amber Ales out there, I think Mr. James Squire has met his match. 7/10.

M: Mid to light, a touch watery, with a light but dense carbonation – a little better than average. 6/10.

D: What a letdown from an awesome aroma though? This is one beer that would be a stand out if it tasted as good as it smelled, but there you go, we do get those beers. As far as an Australian Amber Ale goes we’re not exactly flush for choice with excellent examples and with the limbo bar set so high this Newstead brew doesn’t even have to lean back to get through. Bit of a shame that, because we have the talent here to brew Ambers as well as the US, but the effort is left wanting. 6/10.

Food match: A nice Prague-style beef goulash (with dumplings!) would go well with this.

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Matilda Bay Ruby Tuesday

Total Score: 5.45/10 Nut1 Caramel1 Earth1 Nonicpint1

Matilda Bay have changed, I’ve said it before several times, however it needs stressing because Matilda Bay are an example of a decent craft brewer that lost its way several years ago. Latest brews that have been released (I.G.P., Minimum Chips) have essentially been watered down craft beer for the mass market without any love or care for beer. I say all this as a cautionary tale to craft brewers – don’t become what Matilda Bay has become. Anyway, rant over, I’m not expecting much from Ruby Tuesday but boy do I love being proved wrong.

Poured from a 345ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Ruby in name only – the body is a clear deep amber with a taupe head that quickly dies down to a lace ring. Nothing impressing me yet. 5/10.

S: Aroma is a trashbag full of wet vegetal matter, nuts, caramel malt, and reminiscent of the James Squire Amber Ale with its hint of puke. It’s not a good aroma, far too much like Frankenstein’s monster to be appealing. 5/10.

T: Quite muted, a stylistic choice with all the new Matilda brews, flavours of nuts, caramel malt, some earthy hops providing a hint of bitterness in the finish. Another wishy-washy Matilda brew, what a surprise. 6/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a light carbonation and a touch of wateriness. 5/10.

D: Overall the flavour brings absolutely nothing new or exciting to the craft world, and after drinking 1500+ different brews in my lifetime I’m a bit over unexciting beers (sorry Matilda Bay). Whatever happened to the person who came up with excellent beers like the Alpha Pale Ale or Dogbolter? Did someone at Matilda Bay shoot them? Or have they been imprisoned like the Count of Monte Cristo in a Château d’If-like prison? Who knows, either way Matilda Bay are officially (for me at least) a Macro brewer now. 5/10.

Food match: Lighter, creamier cheeses, nothing sharp, might work with this. However don’t go wasting a Chimay Grand Classique on this beer.

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4 Pines Keller Door Amber Mosaic

Total Score: 7.45/10 Biscuit1 BrownSugar1 Earth1 Nonicpint1

Another 4 Pines Keller Door??? Yeah peeps. Deal. Ok, well this one is a handsome looking American styled Amber Ale, which means taste buds: Expect malt. However the “Mosaic” in the name suggests it might be a bit more than a malt-driven Amber… I would read the label to confirm however I’m far too lazy to do this.

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Clear copper (because the “amber” in Amber Ale actually means “copper”) body with a frisky half centimetre cream-coloured head. Tasty. 7/10.

S: Not too malt-driven for an Amber. There are notes of toffee, biscuit, earthy and floral hops. I like the biscuit touches, who doesn’t like a good biscuit? Evil people and Persian cats of course (evil people with Persian cats hate biscuits even more – watch out for them). 7/10.

T: Toffee and biscuit forward with a brown sugar mid-palate and an earthy hop finish. The aftertaste has a subtle light warming character, like a good belt of Scotch, but much less warm than that, so not really like a good belt of Scotch at all. This is indeed a solid and fascinating Amber Ale. After a couple sips the hop bitterness says “Hey, I’ve arrived, let’s have scones”, to which I nod pleasingly. 8/10.

M: Medium bodied with a medium carbonation… could do with less of that fizzy business thanks. 5/10.

D: This is quite the mosaic brew then. There were a couple times when I slipped into a Confucian contemplative mood, looking up at the moon, noticing a flower petal floating in a pool of water outside my window, wondering where exactly that water came from, worrying that the drains were leaking, only to refocus to take another sip, i.e. this is a good complex Amber Ale, highly regarded by Doc. Now back to contemplating. 8/10.

Food match: Creamy Thai/Indian dishes or a cheese platter (with creamy not sharp cheeses) are sure-fire winners.

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James Squire Amber Ale

Total Score: 5.25/10 Nut1 Malt1 Earth1 Nonicpint1

The James Squire bottle tells a story of a man that received a hundred lashes from a cat-o-nine tail because of his insubordinate and wanton lust to brew beer. This to me sums up Australian’s well – so great is our thirst for the amber drop that we will gladly suffer punishment to brew the ultimate beverage.

Today’s serving vessel is my trusty old clay chalice/tulip 450ml cup (from the Pilsner Urquell brewery in Pilsen). The amber Ale itself was poured from a 345ml bottle.

A: Oh dear, I poured the beer before realised that I cannot see through lacquered clay… err, I’m sure the body would appear amber as advertised (actually it’s more of a “caramel brown” – I’ve had this beer before). 2cm tan head that dissipates to a thin layer that leaves lacing in the chalice. 5/10.

S: Nutty malts, followed by a woody fragrance with a hint of puke (not a good thing to have a hint of mind you). 4/10.

T: This “Ale” has a mild, slightly nutty flavour balanced with some sweet malts. The hop bitterness is slight, and doesn’t spoil the aftertaste which is earthy followed by a sour note. I’m glad there’s no taste of the ‘puke’ I noticed in the smell. 6/10.

M: Here’s my bugbear with this “Ale” (and I’m using inverted commas for a reason) – this is no more an “Ale” than my grandmother is a scuba diver, and it comes down to the carbonation for me – this “Ale” is carbonated like a Lager (which really p****s me off!). Unfortunately this is where Aussie brewers drop the ball over our English brethren. Points have been deducted. 3/10.

D: So we’ve got an “Amber Ale” that isn’t really “Amber” or an “Ale”, but how does it stand on the drinkability front? Quite well actually. I could easily go through a 6er of these – there’s very little confronting me. And that is the only thing holding this brew back – lack of complexity… apart from that – this is one drinkable beverage, worth a hundred lashes? Perhaps not, but otherwise enjoyable. 6/10.

Food match: Roast chicken, leg of Lamb, Lyonnaise potatoes and light barbeque fare.

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