Gage Roads Little Dove New World Pale Ale

Total Score: 6.45/10 Caramel1HopFlower1Flowers1Nonicpint1

Now the second bottle that was donated to me by a Gage Roads rep for the purposes of being reviewed and science – yes science dammit! It was also Champion Australian Beer at the 2016 Australian International Beer Awards… quite a pedigree for this Little Dove. At 6.2% ABV it’s no slouch for an American Pale Ale (APA). Here’s hoping it will bring home the bacon (and fry it in the pan) in a way that Summer Fin (Pacific Ale) didn’t. One thing the rep mentioned about Gage Roads is that they actually bought themselves out of part-ownership by Woolies (i.e. Dan Murphy’s) so they could refocus on their craft… here’s me missing the days of Abstinence and The Convict (both of which I didn’t mind when Dan’s were selling it off cheap), hmmm.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Hazed deep caramel amber with a beige head that leaves some nice lace scrawl on the glass sides. Not bad at all… though pretty dark colour for an APA, interesting (that was my: “expecting a malty APA” interesting). 7/10.

S: Floral/citrus hops mingle with a caramel/toffee malt base, bit on the malty side for an APA aroma, but nonetheless pleasant. I suspect this bottle isn’t as fresh as can be already – the rep wasn’t sure on the brew date – so it might have a touch of hop fade, which is a shame because this obviously earned a gold medal at the AIBA for epitomising an Aussie APA… unless I am mistaken [it’s been known to happen at least twice before]. 7/10.

T: Yep, more on the malt side than expected: my hop fade alarm is ringing (which is a green light marked up by a Sharpie to look like a hop. Caramel/toffee malt base front, centre and towards the back, floral/light tangerine and piney hops in the finish. There is a menthol-like note in there as well, not sure what that’s about. Aftertaste leaning towards caramel/toffee. 6/10.

M: Body is alright though – almost medium with a light but dense carbonation. 8/10.

D: Is for “Disappointing”, maybe if I see this on tap I’ll give it a go – bottles are far too susceptible to light-strike/hop fade, and this one might have been sitting in the back seat of the reps car for a while. That said it wasn’t terrible, just far too malty for any sane beer reviewer to consider it an APA, or an AIBA medal winner for that matter. Being older/wiser I know the warning signs of hop fade and tasted it in beers I’ve had multiple times – all brewers need to switch to cans already! 6/10.

Food match: Doves, preferably small and fried with a nice fennel salad. No joke – doves are tasty, I try to consume at least 3 a week, it’s an expensive habit.

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Magic Rock High Wire Grapefruit Pale Ale

Total Score: 6.9/10 Grapefruit1Orange1HopFlower1Nonicpint1

Yet another grapefruit-infused beer to add to the tally of grapefruit-infused beers out there (BrewDog Elvis Juice is still my fav in this category). Magic Rock is a new brewer for me, and I have been impressed with some of the newer craft brewers I’ve tried from the UK, plus the label looks cool, and when has a label ever failed me before? [sarcasm: yes indeed]. I’m actually curious to try their Cannonball IPA now, don’t think I’ve had a true American IPA from England before… I’ve had some BrewDog ones, but they’re from Scotland – the soon to be independent northern British isles country, where the beers are generally better 😛

Poured from a 330ml can into a Duvel tulip.

A: Cloudy tangelo body with a nice fairly-dense white half centimetre head that slowly drops down to a splotchy covering. Plenty of bubbles on the side of the glass which is indicative of something or other… who knows, I’m not a physicist. 7/10.

S: Aroma is a tasty mix of grapefruit and orange starburst – this is borderline IPA territory given the intensity of aroma, however the proof, as they say, is in the drinking of the APA. Other than that overt candy aroma there’s not much else, I suspect this will be more on the hop end of town with a dash of sweetness for good measure [like every other APA you’ve ever drunk Doc *slow clap*]. If I have one criticism – it’s a bit too narrow in dimension here. 7/10.

T: Tart and bitter grapefruit hits right off the bat, orange starburst comes in, followed by a grainy note and tangerine, finishes with a touch of candy and a light herbal bitterness. Apart from that grainy note this is a superlative APA. The balance between bitter/sweet is good. The aftertaste leans more and more towards the bitter side as you go. A bit one note with a citric slant, but I reckon I would go another (if someone offered it to me… not paid of course). 7/10.

M: Mid to light, slight bit watery, but then it is an APA – doesn’t need a great deal of body to be drinkable. Medium carbonation, a few burps here and there. 6/10.

D: The aftertaste is more annoying than anything else with this brew – not sure if it’s grapefruit related, but Elvis Juice (still the best grapefruit-infused beer I’ve encountered) doesn’t have a problem with an overly bitter aftertaste – so I’m guessing it’s hop related. Apart from that, and yeah the lack of diversity in flavour, this is a decent enough APA, however it’s nothing to write home about… even though I wrote an entire review about it… irony: not lost on me. 7/10.

Food match: A Vietnamese Cá Kho Tộ would pair well with this.

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Sierra Nevada Sidecar Orange Pale Ale

Total Score: 7.1/10 Orange1Caramel1Lemon1Nonicpint1

Sierra Nevada, I must have reviewed them all by now, I certainly love their beers (not Otra Vez) it would come as no surprise if I’ve reviewed all of them, let me check it now on BeerAdvocate… HOLY TOLEDO! Sierra Nevada have 210 beers listed and 339 archived, and I’ve only reviewed 20 so far… oh well this makes 21. TBH I wasn’t drawn to Sidecar like a moth to the flame of most SN brews, probably because I’m getting over citrus flavours in beers, who knows, it just didn’t grab me. However for sheer archival reasons I decided to reach out and grab the bottle from the shelf – yes it’s a tick beer, but tick beers make up about a third of my reviews so you should thank me for doing all this dirty work for you [no problem Doc!].

Poured from a 355ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Hazed ummm… orange body (I’m seeing oranges now) with a 1 centimetre cream-coloured head that soon drops back to thin blanket. The appearance of this brew is a poster child for Pale Ales so there’s not much else to say… better head maybe? Yeah, better head next time SN! 7/10.

S: I’m a bit concerned the orange peel is too much with a heady hit of orange rind on the nose. Hints of melon, lemon and a light biscuit base as well linger in the background, but man alive that orange note is all like “I’m orange, kiss my ass jive turkey!”… it’s intimidating. 7/10.

T: Huh, it’s SN Pale Ale with a bitter orange rind note in the finish. Hardly as exciting as I expected. Flavour of a broad caramel/biscuit base (like SNPA) mingles with orange and lemon hops. If the orange peel added anything to the flavour it’s hard to tell, and why didn’t they reinvent the wheel instead of trying to fit a new tyre to this already tired but well-known sedan? I mean they could have made a different base to accentuate the peel, but it’s just SNPA, I’ve had that a million times already. 7/10.

M: Medium bodied with a bit of hop oils swimming on the palate and a thin, reasonably dense carbonation, top marks here IMO. 8/10.

D: So it’s SNPA (with orange peel). It feels like they could have done something different, something better. As it is SNPA is one of the classics, but resting on your laurels much Sierra Nevada? As far as I’m concerned I would have liked a bit more of a different direction from them, they’re becoming bromidic IMO and need to find a new objective… I mean Tropical Torpedo was simply Torpedo with tropical hops added (I DID like that one though) come on SN! 7/10.

Food match: Malaysian, why? Because I said so.

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Modus Operandi Lost Key XPA

Total Score: 7.2/10 Pineapple1CutGrass1Coriander1Nonicpint1

In the words of George Costanza: “I’m back baby!”. After a mini-break following the behemoth that was Stone W00tstout, I’m dragged back to reviewing [not kicking and screaming, I ❤ this stuff] by Modus Operandi’s new limited release: Lost Key XPA. Now where we last left MO was on a high from their Sonic Prayer IPA, however I’m a bit cautious about Lost Key XPA (or eXtra Pale Ale for those scratching their noggins) because of my experience with their last limited release: Session IPA, which was, in a word: coma-inducing [which is actually 2 words joined together – come on grammar Nazis get it together!]. I will have to crack open the can to find out if MO bombed or elated… which is, err, the opposite of bombed I guess.

Poured from a 500ml can into a nonic pint.

A: Pea-soup consistency, amber with a hint of brown and a waifish cream-coloured head that doesn’t linger for long. Loving the opaqueness proved by the yeast, as we all know by now I am a “naturtrüb-man” (i.e. “natural-cloud-man”). 7/10.

S: Pineapple/papaya combo upfront which works great for me [my current preference being tropical-accented APA/IPAs]. Fresh ‘green’ note in there as well, sitting somewhere between herbal and cannabis(y)… it’s certainly got some decent hop notes, though it is lacking on the malt side, this is a good XPA aroma… I’m expecting a “steady as she goes” ahead. 8/10.

T: Less bold than expected but nonetheless pineapple/papaya hop notes followed by grassy/green characters, a touch of grainy malts in the centre towards a light rocket leaf peppery hint in the finish. Aftertaste is mildly bitter and crisp. Not bad at all… also not great, somewhere in the myriad of decent Pale Ales is where Lost Key sits – it’s a huge sea of Pales out there and this is hardly a white whale. 7/10.

M: Body is good, almost medium, with some hop oils and a nice dense carbonation to back it up. 7/10.

D: I go back to that above analogy “somewhere in the myriad of decent Pale Ales is where Lost Key sits” because it is rather apposite of this brew and where it resides in the grand scheme of things called “my fridge”: It’s neither here nor there. In fact I became a bit bored by the time I drained my pint, Pale Ale ennui setting in from all the beers I’ve drunk over these 6yrs on my craft beer journey… perhaps it’s time to hang up my hat and move on to something new? Perhaps I’ll start yachting… call me Ishmael. 7/10.

Food match: There’s a touch of spice in this drop that would slake some Thai fare.

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KAIJU! Beer Krush Tropical Pale

Total Score: 8.4/10 Pineapple1PapayaMango1HopFlower1Nonicpint1

I’m somewhat a fan of KAIJU!: I love their no-holds-barred style of brewing. A couple years ago I met one of the brewers Nat, he mentioned I should try out his Behemoth. I asked him why it was $20/500ml bottle, Nat replied: “we make expensive beers”. He then proceeded to rattle off how many hop cones went into each batch… needless to say it was: a great many. His sales pitch worked because I bought a bottle, took it home and reviewed it. Behemoth still stands today as one of my favourite Black IPAs. Krush appears to be an interesting proposition as the lowest ABV brew that KAIJU! have made at 4.7%… doubtless they’ll still have packed it with quality hops, here’s hop-ing anyway!

Poured from a 375ml can into a nonic pint.

A: Great colour – a hazed pineapple yellow (pineapples are in my head – thanks to the can label and Glass Animals playing in the background) body. Head presents a nice white cappuccino foam that settles to half a centimetre. Some lacing on the side of the glass, très bien! 8/10.

S: Pineapple, papaya and stone fruit hops from the off… hmmm, reminds me of Pirate Life Pale Ale’s aroma – plenty of juicy hops assailing my olfactory senses like golden memories. Only major difference being the malt base in this is lighter and more dry cracker in scent. Well I’m certainly looking forward to this one! 9/10.

T: Goes down easy… a bit too easy… in a good way (for KAIJU!) – I could quite happily guzzle this all night, perhaps it’s what Nat and Callum intended when they brewed this, those brilliant scallywags. Flavour profile is same as above: Pineapple, papaya, stone fruit, dry cracker, with a nice light green/fresh hop bitterness. Balance is spot on for a nice APA, perhaps a teensy bit underwhelming with the flavour – feels like a 5% version of this would be perfect. 8/10.

M: Mid to light bodied, decent hop oils swimming around on the palate, and a fairly smooth/dense carbonation. 8/10.

D: Side by side with Pirate Life Pale Ale and it’s hard to pick which one I like more – as it happens I had a can of Pirate Life which I tried after this and I feel KAIJU! Krush is slightly better because it is a touch more on the tropical side and I do have a preference for tropical flavoured hops… though it could just be the label playing tricks with my mind – excellent marketing from KAIJU! it must be said. Overall I’m keen to crush a few more of these, cheers Nat & Callum! 9/10.

Food match: This is one for, yep you guessed it: Thai or Malaysian.

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Balter XPA

Total Score: 7.15/10 Peach1Peach1Peach1Nonicpint1

I’m on a Balter high after reviewing their new Pilsner and I figured I should give their XPA a look in (even though I first tried it at a bar on Eagle pier Brisbane ages ago when it was first released and I thought the bar staff had incorrectly poured me a schooner of S&W Pacific Ale). Obviously the fact that Scott “I dun work for S&W annimore!” Hargrave is now the head brewer for Stone &… err, Balter, means we can’t cast aspersions all day because: Duh; Balter XPA is basically the same recipe as Pacific Ale. It doesn’t change the fact that a great many people who don’t know why they love S&W Pacific Ale so much will also feel a strange affinity to XPA… but perhaps that was Balter’s plan all along [insert evil laugh here].

Poured from a 375ml can into a nonic pint.

A: Presents a cloudy Gamboge (just another fancy word for orange because I wear some fancy pants) body with a wispy white sea foam head that begins boisterous but ends half-hearted… Balter’s not great with head retention, poor fellas. 6/10.

S: Stone & Fruit… or stone fruit prominent hops, like S&W PA, in fact I can safely copy/paste my comments from my review of Pacific Ale without feeling like I’m cheating: “There’s a really strong peach and nectarine aroma wafting from this brew that says “sit down, take a load off, enjoy!”.” Yep, like that one, only S&W got there first on the peach/nectarine aroma train, so boo Balter. 8/10.

T: The flavour is pretty much EXACTLY as I remember S&W Pacific Ale to be, to the point that in a blind taste test I would be hard pressed to tell them apart. A light peach/nectarine hop note, sweet malt to balance out the hops with precision, and a finish that hints at tart apple but ultimately finishes dry with a light floral bitterness. Yep, it’s the same f__ken beer Balter, cheeky sods! 7/10.

M: Mid to light, more viscous than PA, but with a similar lively carbonation. 7/10.

D: The only major difference between Balter XPA and S&W PA is vessel size and ABV: 5% vs 4.4%. So the only questions you need to ask yourself is: 375ml can or 330ml bottle? And: Do I need to drive anywhere afterwards? To me this is a wasted opportunity of a beer. Yes I get that S&W is the most popular craft beer and when I worked in the bottle-o it outsold the shit out of every other craft beer – what craft brewer wouldn’t want a slice of that sweet sweet money pie? However Hargrave could have used this opportunity not to rest on his laurels but create an even better Pale Ale… instead now his laurels are crushed underbody. 7/10.

Food match: Tapas or Greek cuisine as I said in my S&W PA review.

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Mismatch Extra Pale Ale

Total Score: 7.15/10 Lemon1Peach1PapayaMango1Nonicpint1

Last Mismatch to try in my Mismatch swag bag is the Extra Pale Ale, which is being abbreviated to XPA much to my dismay [damn beer style trends taking over this craft world of mine dammit!]. Although Mismatch, wisely, haven’t fancied it up with an XPA acronym – they’ve chosen to take the high road IMO and gone with Extra Pale Ale, though the term itself is still neither here nor there (nor anywhere) I do applaud them for not jumping on that XPA bandwagon *cough*Balter*cough*… apologies, bit of a tickle in my throat there. Apparently this [insert non-existent beer terminology here] is a Pale Ale that is strong for a Pale in ABV but not enough to be an IPA… make up your minds people.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Cloudy light yellow tinged amber body with a white 1.5 cm cappuccino foam head on top. Looks respectable this: extra pale is this ale. At least Mismatch are clearly exponents of bottle conditioning – I prefer bottle conditioned beers personally. 8/10.

S: Light tropical papaya notes upfront, hints of kiwi fruit as well (ahhh, NZ hops!)… peachy note as well – this Extra Pale Ale has a top-notch hop combo working for it. Although it needs bigger hop aromas IMO. Malt base isn’t really detectable (a total reverse on Archie’s Red Ale) so I’m imagining something crisp and hoppy. 7/10.

T: Interestingly hits straight off with a real lemon/peachy twang, mid palate sweetness from papaya which follows through and finishes slightly succulent with a tropical hop character but not overly bitter. Good flavours at play, however this is in the flavour-realm of a light APA rather than an IPA. Malt backbone is lacking a little, but it doesn’t really suffer from that. Easily the best of the 3 Mismatches. 7/10.

M: Almost medium bodied with a thin but dense carbonation – pretty slick mouthfeel as well. 8/10.

D: Although this isn’t as lacking in the flavour department as the last 2, Extra Pale Ale paints a picture of a brewer (who mind you is from the same city as those overall risk-takers and all-round scurvy-ridden raiders Pirate Life) who doesn’t take enough risks. Whoever the head brewer from Mismatch is they can take the advice of this beer reviewer who has now reviewed 747 different beers (and drunk more than twice as many): Brew BIGGER beers – don’t be afraid of losing consumers – take risks – that is the path to Pirate Life greatness. Anyway my 2 cents. 7/10.

Food match: Asian salads – stuff like a green papaya salad, not too spicy, fresh flavours would work well with this.

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