Heretic Torment Dark Belgian-Style Ale

Total Score: 8.95/10 Clove1DarkFruits1Wood1Tulipglass1

This came HIGHLY recommended by a fellow craft lover (i.e. the craft of loving). When I say HIGHLY in all-caps I’m not practically shouting through the internet at you – it means this guy really gushed over it and was even so bold to say that “if I love Belgian brews…” [indeed I do] that “this represents the best stab by an American at a Belgian styled beer. Ever.” Pretty big words IMO, I’ve had plenty of excellent Belgian styled beers from US brewers such as Sierra Nevada, Victory, North Coast, Cigar City, Clown Shoes, etc… not sure if Heretic here have managed [damn I really wanted to keep that alliteration going…] to top the works of these top flight US brewers [hmmm, I’ll allow it]. I guess that’s one of the many reasons I drink beer and write about it – to find out if this is the ultimate US brewed Belgian styled beer.

Poured from a wax-sealed 650ml US bomber sized bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Fuck it smells good… jumping ahead I know, but this really smells good, OK focus Doc. Presents an almost opaque deep dark chocolate brown, bit of mahogany in there too, and a tan head that drops back to a lace ring. Splotches of lace on the side of the glass too, not bad at all. 8/10.

S: Spicy cinnamon notes mingle with rich caramel and dark fruits (date and fig mostly) with a slight woody tone that gives an impression of dryness in the finish that may or may not be there. This aroma is close to flawless – there’s plenty of complexity and balance going on, I would be hard pressed to pick between this and Chimay Blue, although I do love cinnamon [it’s like a naughty Rastafarian]. 9/10.

T: The balance continues to surprise with how well this has been done – it’s sweet but not overly, the above notes: cinnamon, rich caramel, date, fig and that woody note work so well together and the finish has just the right amount of dryness to pull it all back. There’s a lingering aftertaste of cinnamon as well. Yet I don’t feel that it’s outclassing Chimay Blue (though it has been a long while since I’ve had a Chimay). Also it’s a tad boozy (like a granny on bingo night). 9/10.

M: Medium bodied with a decent and creamy carbonation, but a touch too gassy (as the burps are my witness). 9/10.

D: Yeah old mate wasn’t far off: This is one of the greatest US brewed Belgian styled beers I’ve had. Everything was pretty much spot on, would drink again [and again, but maybe not a 4th time – I can be mercurial with beers]. 9/10.

Food match: I would def cheese platter this baby… [that sounded less weird in my head].


BrewDog Nine To Five Wizard

Total Score: 7.15/10 Bananas1Clove1Pear1Tulipglass1

To celebrate the imminent opening of the new BrewDog brewery in Brisbane… I still can’t believe one of my favourite Scottish brewers, with mad owners who when being sued by the Elvis Presley estate for the naming of their Elvis Juice all legally changed their first names to “Elvis”, and who once laid claim to the most potent beer ever brewed: End of History (which has since been overtaken by another Scottish brewery: Brewmeister with their 67.5% ABV Snake Venom – the moral I guess being that Scots are lovers of strong beers). In any case I’m pinching myself that I’ll one day be able to visit a little slice of Scotland in Murarrie, Queensland and sit down for a fresh pint of Elvis Juice, slàinte peeps! Oh yeah, this is another India Pale Weizen after the BD’s Weihenstephaner collab called ‘India Pale Weizen’.

Poured from a 330ml can (hope BD does an Aussie sized 375ml when they open up over here, jus saying) into a Duvel tulip.

A: Cloudy AF and looking like a glass of OJ, apart from the sizable off-white 2 centimetre cappuccino foam head on top. The head retreated quickly leaving a thin foam layer. Looks aiight if I do slang so myself. 8/10.

S: Ain’t no proverbial spider-f__king with this BrewDog! Aroma hits you in the face like an overripe banana, and subsequently makes a bit of a mess in the process – I mean how do you clean mashed banana from your hair? You don’t, that’s how. Spicy clove and cardamom confirm the ‘Weizen’ part in this India Pale Weizen, yet hops are distinct in their absence (i.e. the ‘India Pale’ bit). 8/10.

T: Woah mama! Slow down 9 to 5 Wizard! That banana/clove/cardamom combo is straight outta the gate, smashing the palate like a Weizen freight train. If you called this beer a Doppel Weizen it would probably make more sense – there’s a hint of citrus and some pear as well, however the primary flavours are all Weizen. Also alcohol is a tad noticeable with a hot fusel character in the finish. When the palate settles it’s actually not terrible, just a bit too much of a face puncher is all. 7/10.

M: Medium, bit lighter than it needs to be, thin but creamy carbonation – as I recall the India Pale Weizen was similar here. 6/10.

D: Probs due to hop fade, not sure about the canning date, but there was little in the way of hops in this brew (similar to the India Pale Weizen). I wouldn’t race out to try this again – unless they brew it here in Australia and I can get it fresh. Again I liked the Weizen parts in this beer, but it needs more India Pale. 7/10.

Food match: Bratwurst with Bavarian spicy mustard – Ooo, yeah that stuff!


KAIJU! Beer Aftermath Double IPA

Total Score: 9.2/10 Bubblegum1Orange1HopFlower1Tulipglass1

I really like KAIJU! – at least according to my BeerAdvocate ratings which has me polling them above average on 4 of the 5 beers I’ve reviewed versus a multitude of tickers (i.e. people who feel that they can somewhat randomly attribute points to a beer in a haphazard instantaneous fashion). I don’t know, maybe I’m crazy, maybe (well not maybe) taste is subjective, I’ve met the brewers and maybe I’ve developed an unconscious bias based on that, but I really like KAIJU! I like that they’re pushing boundaries that some Australian brewers are “meh” about. I like that they jam a massive amount of hop cones into each brew. I like that Nat didn’t give a fuck about me telling him his beers were expensive. I’m ready for Aftermath [comes science?].

Poured from a 375ml can into a Duvel tulip.

A: Perfect hazed amber – about as good a colour as any Double India Pale Ale: Ever. Head is off-white, began at 2 centimetres and dropped back to a thin blanket, leaving small splotches of lace on the inside of the glass. 9/10.

S: Can smell the aroma without even lifting the glass to my nose – bubble gum, Starburst orange candy, piney resin hints. Then I brought the glass to my nose, wow! This is one fresh DIPA, straight up hop flower aroma, piney/forest floor hints, that rubbery note you get when hops are really fresh in a beer, jackfruit. Yep, this is a real hop bomb, spectacular! 9/10.

T: Surprisingly the flavour doesn’t hit you with a bushel of wet hops – this is one well moderated DIPA. Flavours of the above: bubble gum, Starburst orange candy, piney resin, forest floor, rubbery note, jackfruit. The amazing part in this hopstravaganza™ is how mild the bitterness in the finish is. It’s medium at best. You more get a hop tingle on the tongue – to say “hey, hops is here mon”. 9/10.

M: Medium bodied with a decent presence of hop oils and a dense but thin carbonation. Given the 9.1% ABV it could probably use a bit more body… but then it doesn’t need more body, it’s pretty spot on the way it is. 9/10.

D: It’s been a great year for Aussie IIPAs with this (yes this has been out for a while now) and Green Beacon Uppercut, which I called 2017’s best IIPA. I’ve got to say they’re both great for different reasons: Uppercut is a tropical 8% facepunch, whereas Aftermath is a 9.1% bubble-gum/orange candy buttkick. Uppercut has this on being more responsible, but this beer is a platform for awesomeness, and hops. Just don’t ask me to pick between my children. 10/10.

Food match: Vietnamese, then Thai, and then stomach pump: in that order.


Clown Shoes The Barista

Total Score: 8.55/10 Coffee1Biscuit1Nut1Nonicpint1

God = Yes, I love Breakfast beers. Y’all should know by now – coffee and me are joined at the hip, or more accurately caffeine and me are joined at the brain. So it’s hardly unsound that coming up to the big 1,000 I would throw in a Breakfast beer such as this Clown Shoes The Barista… even seems predictable. I like Clown Shoes [not to wear of course]. Clementine has been the stand out for me, though The Barista is only the 4th brew I’ve tried of theirs, which is hardly a decent sample size, but in my world of rash decisions and beer review opinions it’s enough for me to form the above assessment of their capabilities. Brewed with: Maris Otter malt, flaked oatmeal, cold brewed espresso and lactose… sounds yum!

Poured from a 650ml US bomber sized bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Presents a nice turbid dark brown with a tan cappuccino foam head that drops back to a thin lace blanket. Sorta looks like a beer, and sorta looks like a black cold drip coffee at the same time, which is a bonus given the nature of this product being sorta both things (sorta not) [sorted!]. 8/10.

S: Oh yeah! Coffee and beer, back together again, like Lloyd and Harry from Dumb and Dumber [those guys!]. Initial aroma is cold drip coffee with a hint of espresso, then oatmeal comes in and gives it a cereal overtone, hints of biscuit (as in the Aussie use of the word – it’s sort of like a cookie but better) bit of toffee as well (it’s sort of like caramel but better). There’s sugar in the aroma, will be interesting to find out if the flavour is drier whilst I (not so) secretly hope it’s not. 8/10.

T: SOOo good! Flavour profile is as above: cold drip coffee, hint of espresso, oatmeal, cereal overtone, hints of biscuit, toffee and nutty tones. What Clown Shoes does superbly is balance the sugar so that it’s not cloying or too dry, it’s at the exact level it needs to be. Coffee could be more prominent, it’s drowned out by the non-coffee flavours. Boy is this a tasty drop though – 8.5% ABV isn’t even noticeable, I almost drank this like it was a chocolate milkshake, DA-YAMN! 9/10.

M: Lacking a bit here given the indicated oatmeal and lactose, have you heard of Founders? They do wonders here. Medium bodied, creamy carbonation. 7/10.

D: Well. I am. Sold. Apart from a teensy-weensy lack of coffee this is a rather, I mean raa-ther *British toff accent* tasty bloody drop, and at the end of the 24hr cycle of the earth spinning on its axis isn’t that enough? Yes, the answer is: Yes. 9/10.

Food match: Toasted ham and cheese on rye, with a pickle, and a dash of mustard.


Harviestoun Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12 Sherry Cask

Total Score: 6.8/10 Smoke1Bacon1Wood1Tulipglass1

I’ve been a fan of Harviestoun since 2001 when I lived in Edinburgh, Scotland and worked in a bar that sold Old Engine Oil on those awesome bicep-building pull taps (I could have sworn that beer used to be 9% ABV). Fast forward to 2018 and sitting in front of me is a lot of memories packaged neatly in a 330ml bottle. This is Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12 Sherry Cask. A Black Ale aged in Highland Park sherry casks. The bottle no. is 25937, and the date on it is April 2015, so it’s had over 3 years in the bottle (including 6 months in the cask). I’m also a big fan of Highland Park whiskey too – though I’m a bit wary about the aging in sherry casks: Highland Park is already soft and sweet enough, hopefully the aging in the bottle will have mellowed out my preconceived sweetness somewhat.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Not quite black, more like a “she sips a Coca Cola, she can’t tell the difference yet” coloured body, with thin tan soap bubbles where a head would normally reside [at least this one is carbed bro!]. Looks alright though, a classic 7/10.

S: Woah. More smoky bacon hickory goodness than an American BBQ Association get together. Actually just Googled if such a thing does exist – American BBQ Association – and thank the internet it does. Really hard to get past those smoky, charry, bacon and hickory notes – at this stage I’m predicting the little info-gram pics above to be: Smoke, Bacon, Wood. Pretty singular stuff. 7/10.

T: Flavour takes the above: smoky, charry, bacon and hickory – and then it dumps peat all over it… and I mean ALL OVER IT. Profile is peat from start to finish, he’s a nice guy but jeez Peat get over yourself! Look if I had to guess I would say the original, non-peated, version of this has a delightful dark fruit and brown sugar character and finishes sweet with a slight medicinal herb bitterness [which is my go-to description of many a Dark Ale]. However there’s very little room for anything else in this peat bog of a brew. Smoky = this. 7/10.

M: Mouthfeel is also a bit of a letdown coming from Harviestoun [who I know can produce great textured beers] with a mid to light, thin bodied and thin carbed feel. You can do better Harviestoun! 5/10.

D: With a BB date of 11/18 maybe I’m cutting it fine? All I know is this is one smoky brew, and peaty AF, plus it’s one-dimensional. It’s hard to have any dimension when peat is involved, which is why I respect + love Ardbeg so much. 7/10.

Food match: Sipping this with cigars, maybe throw in some dark chocolate too.


Van Dieman Hedgerow 2016 Barrel Aged Sour

Total Score: 6.3/10 Wood1RedWine1Earth1Tulipglass1

Next in my sights from Van Dieman is their Hedgerow 2016 Barrel Aged Sour. The label speaks for itself: “Brewed with sloe berries, hawthorn berries and rose hips from hedgerows on the brewery farm, then aged for 1 year in French oak barrels, and blended with 2 & 3 year versions”. Yep, pretty much an instabuy with those ingredients and barrel-ageing, I do enjoy sloe berries in gin, so I suspect this will be a dry and moreish brew. Thus far the beers that I’ve had from Van Dieman have been pretty decent, both have rated around the 8.5/10 mark for me (which is what I would consider to be excellent, 7/10 is good, and 9/10 is world class – I’m still yet to give anything a 10/10, who knows – maybe something amazing is still yet to come).

Poured from a 375ml corked & caged bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Man that cork was a tough bastard to get out! Not the best first impressions in the glass either – seems almost inert with carbonation. Body is a deep dark amber/brown, with no head. None. Right from the start it’s not looking good. 4/10.

S: Luckily it gets better from there! Aroma is right up there with Rodenbach Classic, full red wine, grapey character from start to finish, tart sloe/hawthorn and forest berries also adding a distinct forest floor earthy/woody character. This is an aroma that evokes the best of American Wild Ales, with a Flanders Red Ale spin. 8/10.

T: Mouthfeel is the biggest shocker (see below). The flavour is alright, sloe/hawthorn comes through with a tannic dryness, earthy, woody and hints of grape character. Finish is dry and a touch tart. Missing a bit of flavour profile complexity, there’s little sweetness, and no bitterness, just that sour hint. I’m beginning to suspect that this is corked actually – I’ve had this same thing happen with wines where the cork is totally dry and the flavours have oxidised. 6/10.

M: Yep, completely inert on the carbonation – this is as flat as a tack and missing out on coming across as a beer at all (it’s more like a berry liquor in that regard). Body is mid to light, yeah it’s no good here. 4/10.

D: What a mixed bag – look and mouthfeel were a complete disappointment, however aroma and flavour were excellent and alright respectively. I’m definitely thinking that I had a corked bottle, which is a shame because apart from the problems I’ve listed there’s an interesting brew in there somewhere – one that would reward a bit of aging. Plus this now puts a blip in my ratings for Van Dieman, they were riding high before now. 7/10.

Food match: Cuisine that goes with red wine, gourmet pizza is my pick.


Arrogant Bastard Ale

Total Score: 8.3/10 DarkFruits1Wood1BrownSugar1Tulipglass1

I thought I did this one already… turns out it was the Bourbon Barrel-Aged Arrogant Bastard, easy mistake to make as in my memory the labels looked EXACTLY THE SAME [actually there is a slight difference in them]. So here we are Arrogant Bastard! What? No I wasn’t insulting you, that’s the name of the beer… jeez, Arrogant Bastards. That was insulting you, see the difference? No, well maybe I was insulting you then. As far as American Strong Ales go this is the most popular on a little site I go to called Beer Advocate – 10,712 ratings so for, here comes #10,713! Will it be as great as Bourbon Barrel-Aged Arrogant Bastard? Only minutes will tell, around 30 to be precise.

Poured from a 473ml can into a Duvel tulip.

A: This beer is truly arrogant from the get-go: exploding right out of the can and into my sink, jeez Arrogant Bastard. Colour is a deep tawny brown, cloudy or hazed? Hard to tell, I’m gonna say hazed, with a sand-coloured head that simmers down after the initial explosion leaving a nice thin blanket, and lace. 8/10.

S: Boozy from the off, with a mix of dark fruits (prune, plum, dates) and a freight train full of molasses – this thing is as unstoppable as a train with Jon Voight riding on it. Aroma comes across with a decent amount of sugar but not a truckload, it’s not Founders Curmudgeon in that respect (my dentist BANNED me from drinking that beer when I told him a piece of my tooth broke off while I was sipping it). Pretty balanced aroma based on several scientific whiffs. 9/10.

T: Booze, booze, booze. Dark fruits (prune, plum, dates) and molasses. Much like BBAAB (as in the other Arrogant Bastard) there are woody notes throughout. Sweet mid palate, but not overbearing, bit better balanced than Curmudgeon in that respect – Curmudgeon is a bit “all aboard sugar train heading for candy mountain!”. Finish is long dry, with a medium herbal hop bitterness. Overall flavour is tasty, the booze isn’t crazy in your face, and there’s plenty going on. 8/10.

M: Definitely no Curmudgeon when it comes to mouthfeel – medium bodied with a slight creamy carbonation – had better, had worse. 7/10.

D: Yes I know Founders Curmudgeon is a different style beer but it’s the beer that most springs to mind as I sip this… I miss my Curmudgeon days (which are paradoxically behind me). I feel after drinking half a glass that the hops are a tad aggressive now (I found that in BBAAB too). Still decent though. 9/10.

Food match: “Runaway train never going back, pastrami salad is a beautiful snack”.