Stone IPA

Total Score: 8.35/10 HopFlower1Caramel1Peach1Nonicpint1

This beer represents something special: Stone IPA, launched 20 years ago (I was still in high school at that time, I feel old now) it soon became the zeitgeist brew that grew immensely in stature on a certain website launched by two passionate beer-drinking brothers… you know the one I’m talking about – that site. So I’m going in to this review with a certain amount of reverence that will hopefully not become the folly of hype by the end of this page. However that’s hardly likely to happen with Stone “Xocoveza-Vertical-Epic-W00tstout-Americano” Brewing, those legends of San Diego (which of course in German means a whale’s vagina) who don’t seem to brew any bad beers, least none that I’ve encountered [yet!]. Anyway: My beer awaits.

Poured from a 355ml can into a nonic pint.

A: Hazy amber body, like the sun rising between misty hills at golden hour. With an off-white thatch-work half centimetre head that leaves a nice sticky lace on the side of the glass. This is a damn-near perfect looking IPA, one that Pale Ales hope to look like when they grow up. 9/10.

S: Aroma is a dynamite piney/caramel combo with a hint of dried apricot and citrus leading me further down the rabbit hole. Top-notch fragrance, quintessentially West Coast… hell this is the original West Coast, so of course the aroma matches the ambition of this brew. It’s got a touch of hop fade… would love to have this fresh (can date: 17/02/17 – that’s over 5 months old now). 8/10.

T: Big citrus bite upfront, full piney/earthy notes, broad caramel base, dried apricot hint leading towards an assertive, almost aggressive, bitter finish. It’s balls to the walls this beer! Rather than be overly malty as other brews I’ve noticed with hop fade this one appears to have fared a little better – it’s only a lingering bitterness in the aftertaste that ruins an otherwise impeccable West Coast IPA. 8/10.

M: Feel is good, it’s got a bit of (Johnny) Dep(p)th to it, medium bodied, and an almost German-like carbonation (i.e. not quite but almost creamy). 9/10.

D: I get this beer. It started a “Generation X” wave of brewing beers that were bitter, tasty, and all round a bit of a handful (or glassful if we’re going to be technical here). However I now look back upon these early West Coast IPAs as the age of beers that were challenging, and at times too much for me, and I look forward to the ever growing popularity of New England IPAs which strike a perfect balance between sweet/bitter – which is my favourite beer balance. Huzzah! 9/10.

Food match: Go for some spicy buffalo wings with this brew.

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Feral Finn Diesel

Total Score: 8.9/10 HopFlower1PapayaMango1RockMelon1Tulipglass1

Ooo, a new Feral to review, this time it’s a reference to Vin Diesel that I don’t get… in any case it’s back to their old American IPA stomping grounds with Feral Finn Diesel. This IPA is brewed with the new-to-market hop product Lupulin Powder (using Simcoe and Citra hop extracts). Colour me intrigued. I wonder if it’s anything similar to what was in the 4 Pines Keller Door Hop Hash XPA? If so I wasn’t a fan of that hop hash stuff, it started out decent in the aroma but it really didn’t shine in the flavour department. Regardless I have much more confidence in Feral’s ability to bring an awesome hop-driven Pale Ale to the table than in 4 Pines abilities, which have dropped off of late IMO. Bring on the Feral!

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Cloudy sunset orange body with a reasonably compact off-white lace blanket on top. Looks very tasty/appealing! Especially compared to last night’s Hop Hash XPA which was way too Lager looking in both clarity and colour, I guess that’s where the eXtra Pale Ale in the title comes in, but you can forgive me being vexed as there is still no consensus on what an XPA actually is. Back to Finn Diesel: Looks good. 7/10.

S: The hop characters are both fresh and aplenty here: paw paw, rockmelon (cantaloupe to US readers), piney/resin/cannabis and a touch of stone fruit rounds out this delightful hop forward aroma. Malt? Not really picking it up/caring. If this can deliver those BIG hop characters in the flavour we are on to a winner (winner chicken dinner). 9/10.

T: Top shelf Feral! Flavour profile is front to back hop characters, as listed above (paw paw, rockmelon, piney/resin/cannabis, stone fruit hint) with a definite slant more towards the piney/resin/cannabis trio. There is a nice even natural malt base in there, more biscuity than anything, playing support to these tasty hops. Finish is mild to medium. Sweet/bitter balance = terrific. Well played Feral, well played. 9/10.

M: Medium bodied and chock full of hop oils, with a light but dense carbonation, coming up aces here too! 9/10.

D: Feral have once again shown a) that they have mastered the IPA, and more importantly in my eyes: b) they still turn it up to 11 with their ingredient quantities. To use a recent example, whilst 4 Pines have definitely turned down the dial on their Keller Door brews, Feral have kept at this same level of excellence as they did when they introduced Hop Hog, bravo guys! Can this shit ASAP. 9/10.

Food match: Something Thai and delicate (but spicy).

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Hargreaves Hill New England Haze New England IPA

Total Score: 5/10 Caramel1PapayaMango1Barley1Nonicpint1

Bring on the New England IPAs!!!! More and more Aussie brewers seem to be cottoning on to this style and I’m loving it! Juicy hop characters, low bitterness, and cloudy AF bodies – it’s a Doc Hops Extravaganza! Seriously though I’m waiting for more 3 Ravens Juicy IPA to come in – I’m down to 1 can in my fridge, and because of the nature of IPAs in general (hop fade and all that) I’m going to have to crack that baby soon. Oh well, maybe HH can satiate my New England IPA desires until my local gets that next batch of 3 Ravens in. Oh yeah, if you’re an Aussie craft brewer and you haven’t dabbled in the style yet – get on board, everyone else is, you don’t want to end up like Matilda Bay – they’ve got no clue what’s going on these days, lol.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Hazy caramel-tinged amber body, quite dark compared to others I’ve had in this style, with a foamy cream-coloured head that leaves a little lacing on the side of the glass. 6/10.

S: Tropical notes of Jackfruit and a touch of paw paw mingle with caramel/toffee malts. I suspect this one has had a bit more malt added to it than the other Aussie NEIPAs I’ve had thus far (Bacchus and 3 Ravens… and one more I forgot about – didn’t review it, drank at the pub… tasty it was… Noisy Minor something-chamber perhaps?). The aroma could be bolder, and less malty/more hoppy, but otherwise it’s OK. 7/10.

T: Yep, this is the first of what I suspect will be many examples of this style done WRONG: Thin tropical hop flavours, big caramel malt base, and a mid to high astringently sharp bitterness in the finish. This is the opposite flavour profile of the brews noted above by Bacchus/3 Ravens/Noisy Minor. So it’s no NEIPA, it’s more like a WCIPA, but even if it was labelled as a West Coast IPA it would be a piss poor version of one. Disappointing HH. 4/10.

M: Mid to light bodied (which in an IPA these days is tantamount to sacrilege) thin but sharp carbonation… yep, HH have lost the plot. Shame they didn’t bottle HOA (Hop Oat Ale) I had that at the brewery and it was a cracker of a brew. 5/10.

D: Don’t even bother with this – you’ll only wish you hadn’t got it. The brew date is: 29/03/17, however that doesn’t excuse how bad this beer is – there are fundamental issues with the recipe, I don’t think a fresh one would taste anything like a NEIPA. Also if you’re going to brew this style you really want to can it. 5/10.

Food match: Probs pizza with this one.

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Pirate Life Mosaic IPA

Total Score: 9.2/10 HopFlower1CutGrass1Coriander1Nonicpint1

“Pirate Life, f**k yeah! Coming again to save the motherf**king day yeah!” – is, in lyric form, how I feel about cracking open this sexy 500ml can of goodness right now. You see dear reader – I had a complete dud for my last review (Sample ¾ IPA) which tasted like a big glass of grain-flavoured soda water. So it’s great to have a brewer like Pirate Life to lean on, as I know that despite their lacklustre Throwback (mid-strength) IPA there’s a talented crew on board that big old galleon singing sea shanties and searching for booty [no comment]. Not only is this an IPA brewed by my favourite Aussie IPA brewer, but it’s a single hop IPA showcasing my favourite hop: Mosaic. My taste buds are palpable with excitement.

Poured from a 500ml can into a nonic pint.

A: Hazed golden-yellow body with a rather boisterous (though I did hard pour it) one inch white head that leaves fancy lace scrawl as it recedes – top notch looking brew. My preference for cloudy IPAs is well known, but this is one handsome beer right here. 8/10.

S: Dirty and full of fresh Mosaic hops, as any brewer will tell you: this truly is a wonder hop that can take on so many different characters depending on how it is utilised (my own brewing experience always led to mango flavours/aromas). In this case the hops have an almost aggressive slant with: Spicy/herbal and cannabis characters upfront, hints of orange and pine notes in the background, with not much on the malt side, but it’s in there somewhere. 8/10.

T: This is a real winner of an Aussie IPA: Bold grassy/spicy/herbal and cannabis hops throughout, hints of pineapple, with a solid but yielding biscuit malt base that allows the hops to really shine. The remarkable thing is how they’ve managed to hop the absolute s**t out of this without having an assertive bitterness in the finish. This is smooth, drinkable hop slamming goodness. Bit like a New England IPA in that regard. I’m loving this Pirate Life! 10/10.

M: Medium bodied with extra viscosity from abundant hop oils – tasty s**t, carbonation is light but dense. 9/10.

D: There was a slight apprehension approaching this that Pirate Life might actually balls it up, but no – this is dead set my new favourite IPA [until it runs out]. Mosaic all the way motherF**KAS!!! I’m really impressed with the finish too – bitterness this mild is remarkable in a full Aussie IPA, great stuff! 9/10.

Food match: SE Asia is a dead cert, other cuisines like BBQ or German will work too.

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Sample 3/4 IPA

Total Score: 3.75/10 Barley1Honeycomb1Lemon1Nonicpint1

I’m back from my self-imposed liver break (though it wasn’t really as I drank a beer or two here and there… guess it was more of a review break). Today’s brew is an interesting one to categorise: Sample (whom I’ve never even heard of) ¾ IPA – so ¾ as in, not a mid-strength IPA, but still in the Session IPA range. But who cares what is in the can as long as it delivers amirite? I’m not going to hold my breath for a few reasons though – the label on the can is bland and looks pseudo Pirate Life-ish, which works fine for Pirate Life because what’s inside the can is lip-smackingly great – also I’ve never heard nor seen anything about this “Sample” brewer before, and they don’t rate well on that app whose name escapes me… something-tapped… bad omens indeed.

Poured from a 375ml can into a nonic pint.

A: Clear AF, not a great sign in an IPA, maybe in a ¾ IPA that’s fine though. Golden body with some crazy carbonation action going on inside the glass. Sea foam white head that drops back to a half centimetre. Sample certainly isn’t winning any IPA beauty pageants anytime soon. 4/10.

S: On the malty side for an IPA, even a session one, aroma comes off more like a Lager with hints of grain, honey and a twist of lemon… looks like a Lager, smells like a Lager – Sample are you trying to pass off a Lager as an IPA??? That’s one ballsy move right there! 5/10.

T: If this is ¾ an IPA I can’t imagine the full IPA being any good at all – watery grain husks, dash of honey, hint of lemon, but mostly it tastes like plain old tap water. That this is so devoid of flavour makes me wonder how it even measured up as 4.2% ABV, I’ve never in all my years of drinking encountered a brew with this ABV tasting so piss weak, that must have been a challenge on its own. 3/10.

M: Non-existent mouthfeel, watery, light AF, with an excitable carbonation – even the mouthfeel is a fail. 4/10.

D: What a brew to come back to after Cantillon – which managed to pack in so much flavour in 5% ABV… I’m glad I got this Sample ¾ IPA as a free… what’s the word I’m looking for? [sample?] As this brew was an absolute underweight… makes me wish I had a can of 3.5% Pirate Life Throwback IPA to completely drown out this non-event of a brew. Damn I’ve got a free Sample Lager as well 😦 4/10.

Food match: Unflavoured rice cakes with cottage cheese – be careful not to add salt! You might overpower this beer.

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Kona Brewing Hanalei Island IPA

Total Score: 7.3/10 Passionfruit1PapayaMango1CutGrass1Nonicpint1

Hmmm, an American IPA that’s 4.5% ABV?! Bit suss about this, shouldn’t an IPA be between 5.5%-7.5% ABV? [consults BJCP 2015 Guidelines]… yep: 5.5%-7.5% ABV… bit of a misnomer there Kona. Apart from that I’m slightly excited by the addition of passionfruit, orange and guava (mostly about the guava – don’t think I’ve had a beer with guava in it before). Ironically this Hawaiian brewer actually has their beers brewed on the continental US in Portland, OR, and Portsmouth, NH, two states which have a totally different climate to Hawaii… I wonder why Kona do that? Seems a bit odd to me… that said Sapporo is brewed in Australia under licence by Coopers so I guess it’s no different in that sense.

Poured from a 355ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: It’s got a Tequila Sunrise look to it – cloudy orange with a splash of pink in the body and a light foamy white head that settles to a lace ring… interesting, wonder if the pink from guava is giving off that hue? Alright regardless. 7/10.

S: Upfront passionfruit and guava characters give it the impression that it is heavily hopped – well played sir. There’s a grassy note in there as well. Not really picking up any orange, though I’m not fussed and frankly I’m getting over orange flavours in APAs/IPAs. Not really detecting any malts, but that’s no biggie in an IPA – the “hop” flavours are there, that is what’s important. 8/10.

T: Guava comes through with a surprising tartness that works well with the grassy/passionfruit characters. Malt isn’t really there, apart from a hint of dry cracker. Finish has an almost Lager crispness with light bitterness. It’s light on flavour for an IPA, which both makes it quite sessionable and not really an IPA at all – kind of the antithesis of an American IPA really [IPAs should be in yo face]. 7/10.

M: Mouthfeel is expectedly light bodied and needs a little bit more weight IMO, carbonation is slightly gassy as well. 6/10.

D: This would be an excellent hot weather beer – it’s the middle of winter in Brisbane atm (not that it ever gets too cold here) but you can tell this would be a cracker of a brew on a hot day – I’m picturing a Hawaiian summer luau right now and I could probably scull a litre of this in that circumstance… as it stands now: I need something big, dark and malty. However I liked this better than I expected to – there’s always a bit of trepidation with fruit-addition beers but this one did it well and subtly enough not to overcompensate for a crappy brew. 8/10.

Food match: I did mention luau above – go the luau, no poi!

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Blackman’s Brewery Reginald IPA

Total Score: 8.15/10 HopFlower1Flowers1Caramel1Nonicpint1

Reg!!! What an Aussie name for a beer, could you get any more Aussie than Reg? According to Monty Python: Yes, Bruce is the most Aussie a name can ever be. Still Reg is pretty damn Aussie, if you cut Reg he would bleed meat pie gravy. Analogy aside, I come into this review correcting an injustice: I thought that I had already reviewed Blackman’s Reginald IPA. Turns out I had not. Things can get hazy once get past 800 beer reviews – stuff begins to slip through the cracks into the “have I/haven’t I reviewed this?” ether. In any case I have remedied the situation and now I have a lovely 330ml can of Reg sitting in front of me ready to be pierced by my hipster male gaze *stares at can for an entire hour*.

Poured from a 330ml can into a nonic pint.

A: Visually pleasing hazed caramel-hinted amber body with an Ecru 1 centimetre head that sticks around rather well. Lace patterns on the side of the glass, good protein content in that head, tasty looking stuff so far. 9/10.

S: Diacetyl hits the nose, an acceptable level of butterscotch in the aroma – move on, piney/citrus hop notes bring to mind a West Coast IPA that may be (Diacetyl considered) a touch on the malty side. Caramel malts in the nose as well. Apart from Diacetyl the aroma is pretty clean/moreish. 8/10.

T: Even-keeled IPA right here – none of this showy Pirate Life/Green Beacon/et al biz here – just a nice West Coast IPA. The Diacetyl level in this can is dangerously close to over the edge though. Flavours of piney/citrus/floral hops upfront on palate with a broad caramel malt base to carry it through to the finish, which is mildly bitter. TBH this tastes a bit different to the first time I tried it on tap (no notes from that unfortunately) it’s definitely not as fresh with the hops and I don’t remember any Diacetyl in the batch from the tap. Still pretty drinkable regardless. 8/10.

M: Medium bodied with a light creamy carbonation – excellent body, especially for an Aussie brewed IPA (let’s face it: some Australian brewers are lacking in this department). 9/10.

D: Despite the Diacetyl, and the hops not being fresh, this is still a fairly solid Australian IPA that I will buy again in future (paying special attention to the brewed on/best before date). One thing I appreciated with this brew is how approachable it was – my favourite Aussie IPA is still Pirate Life – but you can’t drink Pirate Life (or live it) every day, so it’s good to have options like Reg. 8/10.

Food match: BBQ ribs, oh yeah!

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