Little Creatures The Fuggle is Real

Total Score: 7.35/10 Chocolate1DarkFruits1Flowers1Nonicpint1

I’ve had a bit of history with Little Creatures – their Pale Ale was the first beer that made me truly fall in love with craft beer (I dabbled with CAMRA ales in Scotland in 2001 before this). That was a long time ago (nearly a decade now) my go-to when I was working in a bottle-shop back then was 2 pints of Little Creatures Pale Ale. When they released their Single Batch beers they had some real crackers (The Quiet American was my favourite) and my respect for them went up again. Then Lion-Nathan bought them out and they spent a few years in the wilderness. A corner was turned recently when they bought back Single Batch with a tasty Altbier called Reinhold. Now The Fuggle is Real is their latest seasonal, and it’s pretty decent IMO (I had a can of it recently). Is Little Creatures back? I think so.

Poured from a 375ml can into a nonic pint.

A: Deep black/cola brown murky body with a mocha coloured head that settles at about 1 centimetre – as a good Stout should. The head leaves patchy lace inside the glass as it descends. A solid looking Stout right here. 8/10.

S: Roasted chocolate malt, bit of espresso coffee and floral/earthy notes from the Loral and Fuggle hops. There’s a nice bit of dichotomy here that is the hallmark of the American Stout style – it’s that mix of hops and roasted malts that makes the style interesting, very similar to a Black IPA (which is more slanted towards hops with less roasted barley). 8/10.

T: Roasted chocolate malt upfront, a light whisper of smoke, espresso coffee, hints of dark fruits (plum/prune) and yes: floral/earthy hops. The hops are a bit less prominent in the flavour than the aroma, however they’re present. Finish is mid to light herbal bitterness with a touch of dry. Aftertaste is roasted chocolate/plum. It could be a tad more exciting, but this is a solid Stout from Little Creatures. 7/10.

M: Mouthfeel is lacking (given the 5.8% ABV) with a mid to light body and a light/dense carbonation, this is an area for improvement. 6/10.

D: I’m glad to say it: Little Creatures is back! That’s two good beers that they’ve released recently, and even though I won’t touch their Dog Days Summer Beer with a ten foot barge-pole (for obvious reasons) I’m confident that their next beer release will be decent now… unless it’s a sub-5% ABV brew – then I ain’t touching that with a ten foot barge-pole. Give this a go though: Little Creatures have brewed a solid American Stout here. 8/10.

Food match: Roast beef, Yorkshire pudding with dripping, roast potatoes, etc.

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New England Brewing Co Malt & Beans

Total Score: 7.95/10 Coffee1Earth1Lemon1Nonicpint1

Uh-oh, BEER BACKLOG ALERT! Looks like I’ve been away for a couple weeks and now I’ve got about 10 new beers to review in my fridge – oh dear, I’m devastated. Well, guess I’ll just have to pull up me britches and do a good old fashioned beer review flight, destination: smashed (no doubt by the end of today). These next three beers are Stouts and Porters, cause you know – winter is here in Brisbane, and that means it’s a brisk 23 degrees (Celsius) outside at the moment – I’ve got my slippers on right now, brrrr! First up it’s a New England Brewing beer, which whilst I’m not a fan of their core range, their limited release stuff is usually interesting, such as this Coffee Stout with PNG Lamari Peaberry coffee beans, this should be good.

Poured from a 375ml can into a nonic pint.

A: Pours a nice deep brown, like ground coffee beans, with a khaki cappuccino foam head that drops back to a thin blanket with minimal lace on the side of the glass. She looks alright, nothing outstanding, just a solid: 7/10.

S: Here’s where Coffee Stouts really like to wow me – aroma is upfront cold-drip PNG Lamari Peaberry and nothing else. To describe the coffee: it’s a pleasant red coffee cherry, earthy tones and a hint of citrus. As far as coffee flavours go PNG is one of my top 3 destinations (after Ethiopia and I would have said Columbia in the past but Guatemala is now my second favourite). Could use a bit of malt character, but the coffee is the star here. 8/10.

T: As close to a cold-drip coffee as I’ve tasted in a beer thus far. Flavour is dominated and driven by that PNG coffee and if it wasn’t for the texture and a touch of hop bitterness in the finish I would swear I was drinking a coffee right now. Flavours include: red coffee cherry, earthy tones, hint of citrus and a slight herbal hop note towards the end. Finish has that typical New England Brewing long dry character (due to their yeast strain). In this instance it works well, giving the coffee flavour a chance to shine, however a bit of sweetness overall wouldn’t have gone astray. 8/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a creamy(ish) carbonation, pretty decent. 8/10.

D: Well this was a happy coincidence from NEB – that their typical dryness actually paid dividends with the coffee flavours – if you get a chance and love coffee this brew is worth a crack thanks to the exceptional PNG coffee beans used and NEB’s skill in experimental beers (still not a fan of their core range). 8/10.

Food match: Really would kill for a pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant) right now.

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BrewCult Gingerbread Maniac

Total Score: 6.85/10 Biscuit1Coffee1BrownSugar1Nonicpint1

Well, well, well, if it isn’t Hendo’s latest (not really) experimental limited release: Gingerbread Maniac. I’m not the hugest gingerbread fan, which is why it has taken me so long to get around to reviewing this brew that I’ve seen on shop shelves since sometime in July. However I don’t mind BrewCult – one man brewing-machine Hendo has bought out a few corkers, specifically the tastiest beer I’ve ever had that contains balsamic vinegar: Acid Freaks… that said, it’s the only beer I know of that contains balsamic vinegar… ANYWAY, my point still stands: Acid Freaks = tasty shit! BrewCult = decent brewer.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Deep black/brown chocolate body with a thin tan head that contains an odd mixture of tiny/big bubbles… quite a bit of odd carbonation action going on in the glass, not really sure what that is indicative of… oh well, as long as it tastes good I don’t care much. 6/10.

S: Rich biscuity gingerbread aroma coming through with dark fruits and red coffee cherry and a truckload of brown sugar. Smells quite sweet, almost sickly so, but it’s as advertised so I can’t complain to my dentist about it when I get my next root canal [damn I was looking forward to complaining to my dentist too]. 8/10.

T: Yep, it sure is sweet. Kinda tastes like a Frankensteinian mix between a ginger beer soft drink and a Stout. It’s got the above flavours coming through as hints, with an overbearing ginger beer sugary taste and slight espresso bitterness. It’s not bad but it’s definitely missing something or some “body” [har-har Doc!]. 7/10.

M: With that witty pun we reach the mouthfeel evaluation – which IMO is too thin and Gingerbread Maniac is flatter than a Martian pancake (which are known for their extreme flatness… I don’t know, it’s something to do with the gravity on Mars, those kooky Martians!). 4/10.

D: Apart from the non-existent carbonation this is an alright dessert beer, it’s definitely a dessert beer too, don’t drink this on a hot summers day while riding a tricycle – you will probably spill most of it on the pavement. Feedback for Hendo? This needs oats… lots of oats… an OTT amount of oats… and nitro, now we’re on to something! If Hendo updated the recipe thusly I would totally be down for that – and I don’t even like gingerbread, but I could see this becoming a real winner if those things happened. Anyway, I digest now. 7/10.

Food match: Some sort of dessert, possibly a bready substance with ginger added.

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Sierra Nevada Stout

Total Score: 8.15/10 Chocolate1Barley1DarkFruits1Nonicpint1

The original Sierra Nevada! As the label states this is the drop that began the now monolithic SN, it’s hard to imagine what the beer world was like without Sierra Nevada… a hell of a lot blander for one… but there was a time not so long ago when beer meant something shit like Foster’s or VB. Like waking up from a bad dream the world has progressed to our current state of beer nirvana: Beervana – now you really can get almost any crazy combination of ingredients ready-fermented in a glass bottle for your enjoyment. So what does this 30 year old recipe have to offer us today? Something easy and agreeable one would hope.

Poured from a 355ml bottle into a Sierra Nevada US pint glass.

A: Dark – but not imposing – like a big cuddly brown bear with razor sharp claws and teeth bared… err, not sure that analogy works, but whatever: deep brown body with a wispy tan foam half centimetre head. Leaves decent lacing: Check! 9/10.

S: Roasted toasty grains and chocolate notes along with hints of dark fruits and light smoky aromas. Quite a moreish nose here – though it could, for 5.8% ABV, use a little more heft – not complaining, just noting. 7/10.

T: Classic Sierra Nevada – it doesn’t jump out and shout “Look at me! I’m a beer!” in some sort of weird stein-related costume that gets the wearer arrested for public indecency “Is that a small tap handle coming out of the stein? No, wait!” – it just quietly turns up the dial, not to 11 (this is beer not Spinal Tap) but to something like 8. Compared to the last American Stout I reviewed (Newstead The Outpost) this seminal American Stout is hardly hop-happy, it focuses primarily on roasted malts and the above noted flavours – it doesn’t veer off course. Tasty, tasty malts! 8/10.

M: Medium bodied with a nice light but dense carbonation. 9/10.

D: As stated in my preamble what can Sierra Nevada Stout offer todays’ drinkers? Something easy and agreeable. This brew is exactly that: Easy and agreeable. I’m sure back in the day of bland tastes (30 years ago) drinking this would have been akin to releasing a firestorm on your tastebuds, however today we have so many bolder beers out there. What Sierra Nevada does again is create a respectable base-line standard of a brew in this American Stout that we can all drink after our tongues have been lashed by hearty Russian Imperial Stouts and the like – here’s my cheers to Sierra Nevada for giving us a damn fine regular American Stout on which we can rest our weary taste-buds, cheers! 9/10.

Food match: Hearty Russian Imperial Stouts… or beef stew, whatevs.

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Newstead Brewing The Outpost American Stout

Total Score: 8/10 Earth1Coriander1Coffee1Nonicpint1

So Newstead are one of those brewers who for me float around in the “just above average” region of craft beer, I mean compared to their almost next door neighbours Green Beacon they don’t really epitomise excellence in craft brewing for Australia. That all changed for me with this limited release American Stout they call ‘The Outpost’. I almost passed up on this brew but on a whim I bought a 4-pack, and I can tell you one thing: I’ll be going back to my local Blacksheep bottleshop for more.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Almost obsidian hazed (I think?) deep brown body with a 1 cm tan cappuccino foam head on top. As the head recedes it leaves a nice sticky lace inside the glass – we all know what that means? Proteins! Yay! Par for course as far as non-nitroed Stouts go. 8/10.

S: Upfront it has that classic Aussie earthy note that I find in so many top-shelf Australian craft brews – it’s like the ground the hops grew in, I love that aroma! Aside from that I’m getting roasted coffee bean, hints of dark chocolate, with a light citrus/stone fruit combo towards the back – it’s sort of like a Cascadian Dark Ale with the emphasis on the roasted rather than hoppy characters. 8/10.

T: Earthy front palate leads on to a roasted malt sweetness, then a slight coffee/dark chocolate bitterness which finishes with citric/herbal hop notes. Aftertaste, and indeed burps, add a most welcome and intriguing green herbal earthy tone to the overall flavour. So to recap: Earthy, herbal, green [which is a colour not a flavour Doc] roasted coffee/malt/dark chocolate is the well-devised scheme of this brew and it’s really hard to fault it here. 8/10.

M: Medium bodied with a light almost flat carbonation – more body would normally be found in an actual US-brewed American Stout. 6/10.

D: This is one tasty brew from Newstead, who really should add this to their core range because, you know: I said so. Apart from my wants and desires I find this to be easily Newstead’s most self-assured beer – although I admit I haven’t tried all of their brews yet, but this American Stout is delightful – a feast for the senses… damn that sounded like some grade ‘A’ waffle, f@*k it – it stays in! Keep up the good wor… no wait – brew more beers like this Newstead! 9/10.

Food match: I’m going to go left-field as say a pan-seared Barramundi with garlic tiger prawns (in American: Shrimp) and a mango salad, BAM!

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Panhead Hardtail Henry Oaked Stout

Total Score: 8.95/10 Vanilla1 Chocolate1 Earth1 Tulipglass1

This is another new one for me – NZ brewer Panhead’s Hardtail Henry Oaked Stout – never had an oaked Stout before – Dennis of Plonk fame recommended it, my former work colleague (yes I worked at Plonk one Christmas… last Christmas to be precise) and the man who introduced me to Rodenbach Grand Cru and Trois Pistoles – I take heed of his zymurgy sage-like advice when it comes to new brews – and this is a new brew. Cheers Dennis my brewthren!

Poured from a 500ml can into a Duvel tulip… cans are the new glass bottles as they say [they don’t, I do].

A: Really about as foreboding as a Stout can be with a pitch black oil slick body and a light brown/khaki tight packed 1 cm head – it’s up there with the princes among Stouts: FBS and Old Rasputin… damn I love a good Stout! Leaves lace like a MOFO too – side of the glass is a blanket of lace even though the head has dropped back to nothing… colour me “most impressed” (basically gold). 10/10.

S: Vanilla… truckloads of sweet/floral vanilla… toasted biscuit, hint of smoke, dark chocolate and roasted tobacco leaf. Aroma is nothing short of spectacular… however this is an NZ brew – remember Dr Hops rule for NZ brews: They almost always smell better than they taste. I have a good feeling about this one though. 10/10.

T: F**k. Yes. This is exactly what the doctor ordered – Sweet milk chocolate/vanilla pummels you in the tastebuds – but the sweetness is right on the mark, not a sugar bomb, borderline but not. Roasty char flavours complement the sweet notes well. An earthy/tobacco note with a hint of bitterness finishes this excellent brew off. It’s not FBS but it’s closer than I ever imagined to my favourite Stout. 9/10.

M: Remember my terminology for the mouthfeel of Founders brews? “Founders Body” – this beer is close to that heavy bodied, creamy, chewy, oily but tack-flat feel that I’m wondering if there were oats used in the brewing process… noice. 8/10.

D: Towards the end of this epic 500 mls of beer-delight the sweetness did ramp up into sugar bomb proportions… this would be my only main critique against this brew. It is hard to find weak points with a brew this sublime though. Overall however I would gladly place this as the milk chocolate alternative to FBS [what about Xiquic Doc?] Xiquic is double the price of this brew, no way! 8/10.

Food match: Cigars – yes, the more Cubana the better.

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