Ballistic Driftwood Oaked Citra XPA

Total Score: 7.8/10 Peach1Vanilla1Grapefruit1Nonicpint1

Huh, would you look at that: I haven’t reviewed a single Ballistic Beer Co brew yet. I could have sworn I did their Australian Psycho IPA, I certainly drank a couple 4-packs of that (nb: it was a tasty West-Coast IPA). Well I guess it’s time to rectify this oversight and review this intriguing Oaked Citra XPA (Xylophone Poodles Arriving???) from Salisbury, Brisbane. Never had an oaked XPA, I’ve had Oaked Stouts and Porters, but lighter (coloured) beers oaked? That’s a new one. I’m not sure if this is barrel fermented or oak chips, but I’m guessing oak chips otherwise they would have raved about their barrel fermentation process on the label – I mean WHO doesn’t get excited about barrel fermentation processes? I know I do.

Poured from a 375ml can into a nonic pint.

A: Fairly clear deep golden body with a thin spotty near-white head that leaves lines of lace as it goes down. Not the best looking beer it has to be said, but it’s only worth 5% of my score weighting so no biggie there Ballistic. 6/10.

S: Nice peachy and grapefruit overtones, vanilla/woody notes from the oak, a touch of lemon (thank you Mr. Citra) with a light biscuit/cracker malt base underneath. This is a solid Pale Ale to be sure, probably one of the best PA aromas I’ve whiffed in a while. With more and more Aussie brewers tending now towards lighter and tropical-accented Pales, “gateway pales” I like to call them, this Oaked Citra XPA is a breath of old, and IMO: better, air. 8/10.

T: What a playful brew! Starts of all citrus-driven and fresh with grapefruit/lemon hop character, then in comes a wafer-thin cracker malt base, followed by a peachy/vanilla/woody character (American Oak at play there), and finishes with a light green herbal hop bitterness. Aftertaste comes in all peachy. If Southern Comfort released a beer it might taste a little like this. 8/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a reasonably gassy and dense carbonation… probably could have done without the 12 odd burps this drink gave me. 7/10.

D: Flavour-wise I reckon this one will be a divisive beer for many – it’s going to upset the old-guard craft drinkers with its overly fresh and peachy flavour, and the new-guard (aka the ones who love modern/lighter/gateway Pales) will find it a bit in-yo-face. TBH I think Ballistic have struck a good balance here and it’s definitely a brew I would get a 4-pack of for a change of pace, it’s a “change of pace” beer – that’s what this is. Cheers Ballistic, keep the interesting beers coming! 8/10.

Food match: Lighter salads, deep-fried zucchini flowers, chicken, that stuff.

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Tuatara Tomahawk American Pale Ale

Total Score: 7.55/10 HopFlower1Earth1Biscuit1Nonicpint1

Holy shit! Can’t believe I haven’t reviewed Tuatara Tomahawk American Pale Ale yet. I’m a big fan of that giant lizard of the New Zealand brewing world – the mighty Tuatara, a modern-day remnant of the dinosaur days [talking about tuatara’s not the brewery]. Admittedly I haven’t reviewed many Tuatara’s [the beer now], but thus far they’ve all rated decently, with Double Trouble being my favourite of theirs, which means they’ve got some Pale Ale making chops. KAPAI however, sort of a sister brew to Tomahawk, has been my least favourite, so here’s hoping that Tomahawk is better [though it’s probably not likely – hey I’m a realist, you should know this by now].

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Fairly clear deep amber body with a nice chunky off-white cappuccino foam head that compresses to 1 centimetre. Some latticework lacing forms on the side of the glass, decent standard West Coast APA here. 8/10.

S: Classic West Coast APA aroma of piney/orange hops, earthy forest-floor overtones, caramel/biscuit malts, and dry juniper note in the finish. They’ve pretty much nailed the style AFAIC, without adding anything new or exciting. But hey, if it works it works. 8/10.

T: As above: piney/orange hops, earthy forest-floor overtones, caramel/biscuit malts, dry juniper… and a peppery/herbal character towards the finish. Finish is mid to high hop bitterness, probably a bit too cavalier with the bitterness – for an APA, this is in IPA territory here. Apart from the slant towards bitterness this APA is g-to-the-power-of ood [basically it’s good]. 7/10.

M: Medium-ish bodied with a bit of hop resins floating around and a light but prickly carbonation. Nice and chunky like a Campbells soup. 8/10.

D: Not bad Tuatara, not bad at all. Better than KAPAI, it has a bit more of a flavour hit, and whether you like it or not: a bitterness hit as well. My only critiques relate to differences in style from APA and IPA – this beer is definitely heading in to IPA territory, not necessarily a bad thing in of itself, but you need to know what you’re buying and it says right there on the bottle in big blue letters “American Pale Ale”. Also it could have used a bit more malt character (and sweetness). Other than that we’re sweet brah. 8/10.

Food match: BBQ grilled chicken Portuguese-style with a bit of peri-peri chilli sauce to kick it up just a notch.

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Slipstream Laguna Tropical Pale Ale

Total Score: 6.2/10 Passionfruit1CutGrass1PapayaMango1Nonicpint1

Slipstream are on a bit of a roll lately with their tasty Southern Hemisphere limited release and now this Laguna Tropical Pale Ale – which is made with a selection of southern hemisphere hops… one might even assume they had an over-supply of hops from the last limited release, or that they just have a thing for southern hemisphere hops, either way: bottoms up! This American Pale Ale clocks in at a whopping 4.1% ABV and the name of this brew implies tropical fruit is the focus. Hopefully the low(ish) ABV doesn’t mean the flavour will be lacking, but hey it’s not easy to get a flavoursome beer that low, I still haven’t touched their Billy Cart Pale due to it being mid-strength (I’ve got way too many full-strength brews to review in the meantime).

Poured from a 375ml can into a nonic pint.

A: Hazed pale yellow body with a white head that is way too happy to see me [down boy!] at 1.5 inches, it drops back reasonably quick though leaving a wispy sea foam layer on top. Lot’s of carbonation action inside the glass with big bubbles, a bit too much action IMO. 6/10.

S: Grassy passionfruit hops to the fore, Galaxy my old friend, hints of peach and mango as well. Nothing noted malt-wise, which is fine for a hop-driven APA. Aroma is nice and lively, like the carbonation. 7/10.

T: Disappointingly on the lighter side flavour-wise. Hops to the fore with passionfruit, grassy, mango and rubbery notes. Malt is a thin dry biscuit layer that doesn’t really do much at all, just sits there in a wingback chair reading the newspaper like an old man “thanks for nothing malt!”. That said there’s really nothing wrong with the flavours or balance, it’s simply a boring APA sorry to say, which is exactly what I feared during in the preamble. 6/10.

M: Lightish, a bit watery and over-carbed – no match for other more sophisticated APAs out there in the beerosphere (aka Earth). 6/10.

D: As expected this was a “meh!” beer from Slipstream. It’s way too light in flavour and body, and one wonders why this was even brewed – who is the target audience? By now you would expect there is a niche for everyone that drinks beer from the tradie macro Lager drinkers, to the entry-level craft metros, all the way up to the fanatical hipster craft lovers. Slipstream have already won me (somewhat) over with their last limited release, why did they drop the ball here? 6/10.

Food match: Fish n’ chips with a garden salad.

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Exit Brewing #014 Pale Ale

Total Score: 7.1/10 Orange1Peach1Biscuit1Nonicpint1

AKA “Exit Pale” is now in a technologically advanced can – least that’s what the can label says. I’ve been a long time fan of Exit Brewing ever since I tried their #008 Double Session XXXPA waaay back in 2015 (feels like an age ago – my beard has white hair in it now). Strange that I never got wind of this #014 Pale Ale when it was in bottles, however I’m pretty keen on #003 Milk Stout, so I know Exit can brew a damn good beer, this APA should be a walk in the park for them. Also love how they went all-out Tron on the beer can design – just saw their IPA in green cans today, will have to get my hands on that one. Something that does concern me is the middling 4.6% ABV, a touch on the low side for me, hopefully it’s got enough going on.

Poured from a 375ml can into a nonic pint.

A: Hazy golden/amber body with a fluffy white sea foam head that leaves a decent amount of lace on the side of the glass. Looks aiight. Pretty much a classic APA look with this #014 Pale Ale. 7/10.

S: Light with citrus and stonefruit overtones (mandarin and peachy vibes cruisin’ through this town). Hints of biscuit and caramel malts as well. The overall feel of this brew is a light easy-drinking hop-driven APA for a nice hot summer day. A bit Stone & Wood Pacific Ale so far (hopefully the flavour is a bit more West Coast USA though). 7/10.

T: Easy drinking written all over this – mandarin and peachy hops mingle with a light biscuit and caramel malt base, hint of a grainy note as well, crisp dry finish with a mild touch of citrus hop bitterness bookending this easy drinking brew. Did I mention this is easy drinking? No? Well it is: EASY DRINKING. 7/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a decent slightly dense carbonation, mouthfeel is pretty spot on for an APA. I’m not surprised how well they nailed it – these guys brew the best Aussie Milk Stout I’ve come across yet. 8/10.

D: A touch on the boring side for me but I can see the appeal on a hot summers day – sorry to the Mexicans (i.e. any Aussies living south of Queensland) for the heatwave they’re going through right now – crack one of these babies open, you’ll be right mate. As for me, even though I found the flavours a bit too S&W Pacific Ale(ish), I still drained my glass quicker than Trump tweets his bile before breakfast. Good drop this, will definitely get my hands on their green-coloured can of IPA now. 7/10.

Food match: Some fancy chicken burger I had for dinner would have gone well here.

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Melvin Hubert MPA

Total Score: 8.1/10 Orange1HopFlower1Biscuit1Nonicpint1

Happy New Beer* 2018!!! Well it’s off to a cracker already, with my beer shelf literally bursting with beers leading up to that mystical 1,000 reviews before my self-imposed retirement (for the sake of my liver, gut, and that thing called Diabetes). First up for 2018 is by a brewery known as “Melvin”, yes he thinks he’s people, cute. This Melvin Hubert MPA (which apparently stands for “Melvin Pale Ale”) was recommended by a likeminded IPA fan who told me this was the shit. So without further ado – let’s drink this shit!

Poured from a 355ml can into a nonic pint.

A: Cloudy pale orange, as I might have said in the past with creative licence: Gamboge body, with a fine creamy white 1 centimetre head that slowly compacts down nicely. Looks the tasty part alright. 8/10.

S: Sweet Starburst orange and light piney hops mingle with floral hints and a broad biscuit/dry cracker malt base. Pretty decent hop aroma considering that this was canned in October 2017 (yes hop fade will unfortunately be a factor with a brew this old). Overall this is a rather pleasant American Pale Ale aroma. 8/10.

T: Fresh this would have been a hop beast – there’s still resiny hop tones in the palate after 3 months! Flavours include the aforementioned: Starburst orange, piney/floral hops with a biscuit/dry cracker malt base – which takes centre stage due to the age of this brew. Finishes dry with a mild herbal bitterness. Classic West Coast flavours from Wyoming, and really smooth at 6% ABV, top brew Melvin (if indeed I can call you that). 8/10.

M: Mouthfeel wowed me a bit – this is smooth stuff, up there with Founders Centennial IPA, yum-o! Medium bodied with a creamy/dense carbonation. 9/10.

D: So drinkable I finished it before I got to writing this section. It’s a tasty drop Melvin Hubert, quite dry in the finish too, so it’s moreish. Definitely need to try this again fresh (if I ever get back to the states – not likely at this stage). The body and flavour conspired to quench my thirst and egg me on towards inebriation, as all great beers do. Cons: Not really doing anything new/exciting, more flavour complexity would be nice, but other than that it’s a solid: 8/10.

Food match: Gourmet pizza, something with prosciutto and rocket, other foods that introduce dichotomous flavours of spicy and savoury would work well here.

*To recycle an oft used pun for me.

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Brooklyn American Ale

Total Score: 6.35/10 Nut1Coriander1Biscuit1Nonicpint1

Brooklyn have been a hit ‘n miss brewery so far for me: I liked Monster Ale, Chocolate Stout, and East IPA, didn’t mind the Lager or the Summer, but the Brown didn’t gel with me at all. I’ve found that their brews around the 5% ABV mark can be a bit dry and muted. It is with this in mind that I move on to my 7th Brooklyn brew – their American Ale. I’m a bit sceptical up front because take a look at the label: 4.5% ABV. Hmmm, their Brown tasted mild and dry at 5.6%, what hope does American Ale have at blowing my socks off? Not much would be an educated guess, however I have been proven wrong on many an occasion before, so let’s keep an open mind and remain as objective as possible [Ha!].

Poured from a 355ml can into a nonic pint.

A: Clear golden body with a massive 1 inch white sea foam head that says “whoa there son!”, wasn’t even that hard a pour, this thing has massive-head-itis it appears. Leaves a bit of sticky lace as the head drops down, not bad. 7/10.

S: Bit like the Summer Ale, it has a nutty overtone, with a citrus base, a touch more biscuit on the malt side, dry cracker and herbal hop note lingering in the background. A nice relaxing aroma for a beer – much like Summer Ale, this is a brew that doesn’t challenge but says “sit down, take a load off”. 7/10.

T: Flavour doesn’t really add or back up the aroma, it’s too light, with notes of the above (nutty, citrus, biscuit, dry cracker and a herbal finish). Whereas Summer Ale was borderline weak on the flavour side this is simply washed out. It’s not a bad beer, it just needed that extra 0.5% of flavour that’s missing from the ABV. Yes I get how OG/FG work, it’s just an analogy, calm down homebrew readers. 6/10.

M: Same as Summer: Mid to light bodied with a lightish carbonation (was expecting more from that massive head, but that’s the way it goes sometimes – all head/no bubbles). 7/10.

D: There was nothing inherently wrong with this beer but let’s just say I wont be revisiting it again. Ever. These lighter flavoured brews are great for introducing people to craft, however I’m a crusty old veteran who fought in the Craft Wars of ’11 with several tours of Germany before that under my belt – I’m not looking for anything this light. That said I can appreciate the effort Brooklyn have put into this brew, hence my score being reflective of what I believe amounts to a mid-tier easy-drinking craft beer. 6/10.

Food match: The bottle suggests pizza – Margherita would be my pick for this.

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Brewski Mango Hallon Feber

Total Score: 5.95/10 PapayaMango1Raspberry1HopFlower1Nonicpint1

Brewski is newski to me… ski. As such I know little about them apart from the fact that they are from Sweden, and share a shelf at my local Blacksheep bottleshop (in Newmarket) with Omnipollo. If these guys are anything like Omnipollo I suspect that I am in for a good time. Though I’ve only got fruit-driven brews whereas all the Omnipollos I’ve tried have been dessert beers – Imperial Stouts and the like… perhaps Brewski will be the makers of my favourite Swedish IPAs and Pale Ales then? First up is Mango Hallon Feber – which is a 5.5% ABV American Pale Ale brewed with raspberries and mango… sounds like an intriguing mix, not something I would have thought of but now that I’m looking at this brew I suppose it could work smashingly. PS: Love the label art, very cute.

Poured from a 330ml (hand grenade-looking) bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Woah, what a gusher – cloudy AF mango-flesh coloured body with a busy white sea foam head that starts off about an inch and ends up about a centimetre (mixing my measurement systems FTW!). This is NEIPA murky right here, I like it. 8/10.

S: Mango and raspberries bitch-slapping me in a barrage of awesomeness, along with fresh orange juice and a green resiny hop note – this smells like a damn fresh beer… which is then blended into a fruit salad smoothie. If you’re not a fan of fruit salad (and really the label should have given you the hint) this is going to be one unpleasant brew methinks! 10/10.

T: Holy carbonation! (we’ll get to that next) Mango and raspberry mix with a slight orange character. Apart from that the flavour is spicy, bitter and raw with green hops – like a hop tea aggressive greenness that lingers on in the after taste. High to extreme levels of bitterness in this beer. Too much IMO. 5/10.

M: Fizzy AF, waaaay too over carbonated, with a mid to light body, the texture is all wrong because of all the CO2 and I’m left wondering if it’s perhaps a bad batch. 3/10.

D: It’s bit strange to be getting a brew this homebrew-like all the way from Sweden, I mean I’ve tasted homebrew stuff like this from not adding enough malt to my own homebrew malt bill but I’m not exactly sure what happened here. Surprised at the freshness of the hops too given the journey from Sweden. It’s just too gassy, spicy, bitter and green with hops for me to really enjoy it, and I’m hoping this is merely a blip out of the 5 Brewski beers I bought, otherwise – oh boy! 5/10.

Food match: I’m going to declare this review a dead rubber – I’ll have to get another.

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