Aether Brewing Black As Your Heart

Total Score: 6.7/10 Earth1Caramel1Lemon1Tulipglass1

Back when American Black IPAs (or Cascadian Dark Ales) came out in Australia I was a big fan. Then they exploded a few years ago with every man, woman and dog brewing them, and I grew tired of them. Now, 2018, I’m back into Black IPAs [insert “Back in Black” opening guitar riff here], they’re so dark, earthy and moody where everything else is so cheery atm (except Stouts and sour beers), bring on the Black IPAs I say! This Aether Brewing Black As Your Heart is the first cab off the rank for me with their brews. It’s the “Biggest Beer Litmus Test” (BBLiT) that I go through time and time again: 1) Find new brewer, 2) Pick their heaviest ABV brew, 3) Review it, 4) Find out if they are worthy or not based on your subjective experience with that one brew. Easy as bro!

Poured from a 375ml can into a Duvel tulip.

A: Presents a hazy ™cola-coloured body with a nice meaty 2 centimetre beige head that leaves scrawl work lace on the glass side as it descends, noice Garry! Just like drinking a glass of ™cola with a beer head, like a spider-float you could say. 7/10.

S: Earthy and caramel notes from the get-go. Floral hints, along with a slight citrus note rounds out this predominantly earthy aroma. Well that’s all well and good but at 6.7% ABV I’m expecting a bit more of a punchy aroma – something that wafts up into the nostril from the glass sitting on the desk, with this brew I fully had to stick my nose in the glass and inhale deeply. 6/10.

T: Caramel, biscuity and full earthy flavours all over the palate. Citrus and floral hops come in towards the finish and add a light bitter foil to the proceeding characters. Aftertaste is really dirty and earthy, very much an Aussie Black IPA flavour profile here – we always seem to conjure up earthy flavours in our brews, even more so in Black IPAs. Flavour overall is an improvement from the aroma. 7/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a reasonably dense carbonation, it’s not creamy smooth but it is alright, a bit more body would improve it though (I look for “medium bodied” with this style). 6/10.

D: So how did Aether’s BBLiT go? Better than the average bear I would say. However they don’t stack up against the upper crust of Aussie craft, brewers like: Pirate Life, Green Beacon, Modus Operandi and Blackman’s. Aether feel more upper-mainstream craft, brewers like: Nomad, Slipstream, Balter, et al. Beers you can relate to but ultimately you want something a little more. 7/10.

Food match: I would err towards roasted meats with this earthy brew.


Modus Operandi Cascadian Howl Black IPA

Total Score: 8.65/10 Chocolate1Smoke1HopFlower1Tulipglass1

Look I don’t doubt that this 8.1% ABV Cascadian Dark Ale is going to be awesome, so my first question to Modus is: why did you not just add this to your core range? I mean I’m going to (understandably) love this, as will many other Aussie craft drinkers, so here’s exactly how this will play out: 1) Doc cracks open this behemoth in a can, 2) reviews this beer, 3) enjoys it immensely and rates it a 9/10, 4) WANTS MORE! 5) but Doc can’t get any more because all the other Aussie craft drinkers love it and have bought up every last can. Why Modus? Why? Of course I am assuming a lot here, and massively pre-hyping this beer to epic proportions… but come-on, it’s Modus… The Former Tenant amirite?! This. Will. Be. Good.

Poured from a 500ml can into a Duvel tulip.

A: Black as the ace of spades, opaque body, with a finger of billowy khaki head that compacts slowly to a nice blanket. Light lace scrawl inside the glass. Pretty damn impressed this manages a decent head at 8.1% ABV. Ominous as it is impressive, great Black IPA here. 9/10.

S: Bold citrus/piney/resin hops, solid earthy character that Modus (among many Aussie craft brewers) is renowned for, the malt takes on almost a chocolate character. This is going to be a BIG beer. Strap yourself in Doc! 9/10.

T: Roasted malt, dark chocolate, and a hint of campfire smoke all mingles sublimely with a piney/resin hop character… earthy tones in there as well. Finishes with a roasty medium bitterness. However it must be noted that this Cascadian Dark Ale skews towards malt over hops – the balance is a little bit off… bloody tasty drop nonetheless. Did someone order a Stout with hops? No, but I’m more than happy to drink it. 8/10.

M: Mid to heavy body, creamy carbonation, mouthfeel is damn near perfection… what the hell – I don’t see many Aussie brewers putting out beers like this: 10/10.

D: Yep, more Stout than IPA, sort of like Darth Vader according to Obi Wan Kenobi: “He’s more machine than man now”. This is one tasty machine though. I could go another 2-3, alas – once again Modus have made a bloody tasty limited release beer that we may never see again: F**K YOU MODUS! Ahem. Overall this misses the style mark a little but what it does it does exceptionally, so keep it up the good work Modus. PS: Bring back Zoo Feeder please. 9/10.

Food match: To quote the great Carl Weathers “Now you take this home, throw it in a pot, add some broth, a potato. Baby, you’ve got a stew going”.


Founders Dark Penance Black IPA

Total score: 8.15/10 HopFlower1Earth1Biscuit1Tulipglass1

This is another one from the shopping list of desires I never even thought of – Founders, aka probably at the top of my “stuck on a desert island – can only choose one brewer for the rest of your life (inexplicably) even though theoretically you could start your own brewery with all the coconuts lying on the beach and that odd wild hop garden meters away from your house” list*, brewing a Black IPA, huzzah!

Poured from a 355ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Presents a deep dark reddish brown body with a thin light khaki head that drops back to a lace ring with speckles in the middle… appetizing to say the least… to say the most? I want to shrink myself down to the height of 1 cm, climb up the side of my Duvel tulip – undoubtedly a tall order – and dive right in. 9/10.

S: It’s Founders Centennial IPA with sex added. It’s hard to go past those big earthy/dirty, wet hop pine/grapefruit notes without tripping over into a bed of pure hop ecstasy – they don’t make it easy at Founders do they? Overall aroma is hoppy and alluring with a smattering of roasted/toasted biscuit malts simply there for the ‘Black’ in the Black IPA. 8/10.

T: Liquorice is the immediate thing that slaps me right in the brain – liquorice! I’m a bit gobsmacked as I was not expecting that, but there you go – Founders manage to sneak in a surprise for me again, you wily devils 😛 Apart from this it’s all textbook Centennial IPA flavours: Earthy/dirty, wet hop pine/grapefruit notes with a toasted biscuit base and caramel. The only reason it fails the same score is because please; we’ve already got Centennial – what does Dark Penance bring to the table? 8/10.

M: Mid to heavy, Chewbacca Founders stylez, with a creamy dense carbonation. 9/10.

D: This is very much a Black IPA with the ‘IPA’ bit in bold italics font, highlighted and underlined with sparkles on top… in other words there is not enough malt intensity or char in the flavour or aroma to differentiate it from their already loved and popular Centennial IPA. But hey, it certainly doesn’t suck by any stretch of the imagination, and that liquorice note in the flavour was… interesting. However we need a little something more for a Black IPA to stand out in our established amber IPA crowd. #IPAsSoAmber 8/10.

Food match: [copy pasted from my Centennial review] Spicy hot soft taco.

*Admittedly I’m still working shortening the title of this list, any suggestions?


Feral Karma Citra

Total Score: 7.95/10 Pineapple1Coffee1Coriander1Nonicpint1

Feral’s latest offing (which to me is just a shortened version of the word “offering” because, you know, I’m lazy and all that) appears to be a Cascadian Dark Ale in a similar vein as their most superb (and so far my favourite of the style) Karma Chameleon, only that was 10% ABV and this one is 5.9% which begs the question: Why didn’t they bottle the awesome sauce that is Karma Chameleon? Over to you Feral.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Pitch brown/black body with a rather boisterous fluffy 1 inch khaki head that soon drops back to a respectable 1 cm. Some light spider webbing on the side of the glass. Pretty spot on looks-wise. 9/10.

S: Pineapple and guava hop notes stamp their authority on my olfactory senses like that biker in Terminator 2 extinguishing a cigar on Arnie’s chest. Like the beer-drinking Terminator that I am I whiff on unabated. Hints of toffee and chocolate linger on in the background but damn are those hops sexy, too bad malt, another time perhaps. 9/10.

T: The flavour was always going to be a let-down after that superlative hop aroma – those tropical pineapple/guava characters step back from the palate and let espresso malts and sharp herbal hops battle it out over my taste buds, which is a bit of a shame because I was looking forward to more pineapple/guava. Ultimately the herbal hop bitter note carries through to the after taste and slays the dragon that is espresso. 8/10.

M: Mid to light, almost medium, bodied with a sharp, dense carbonation. That carbonation really brings out the bitter notes somewhat. 7/10.

D: Compared to Karma Chameleon this is definitely the lessor brew of the two, however compared to other Black IPAs the balance is almost there but the tropical hop notes were lost from the aroma to the taste, and there needed to be a bit more hop flavours rather than hop bitterness (which all comes down to when the hops were added during the whole fermentation process – my money is on during the boil of the wort rather than a dry hop addition, but unless someone from Feral reads my blog we may never know). Still I did enjoy this and would seek it again on tap. 7/10.

Food match: The Korean classic that is Bulgogi would go a treat with this brew don’t forget a side dish of pajeori 😉


BrewCult Buggin’ Out Black IPA

Total Score: 7.15/10 Earth1 PapayaMango1 Coffee1 Nonicpint1

Here’s another top-notch Hendo (aka BrewCult) beer waiting to be reviewed by Doc (aka DocBräu), this time we have a Black IPA – the new beer geek trendy style (that I personally love). Black IPAs combine two awesome styles – Stout and India Pale Ales, so what is there not to like? [nothing Mr. Rhetorical Question].

Poured from tap into a Schooner.

A: Obsidian black bodied, can’t tell if it’s cloudy but I’m guessing “yes, indeed I am sir”. There is a thin mocha lace on top. Quite an appealing looking BIPA Mr. Hendo. 8/10.

S: A great combo of lychee/mango hop characters with roast coffee notes in the background. The balance leans more towards hops that dominate the tasty roasted malts, a great aroma nonetheless. 8/10.

T: Ooo, deep earthy roasted barley, the tropical hops noted in the aroma fade away somewhat here as Buggin’ Out finishes with bitterness from medicinal herbal notes and roasted coffee bean. The balance is better here but it needs mucho gusto, sorry Hendo. 7/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a light carbonation. A tad too watery for the style. 6/10.

D: It’s another decent brew from Hendo, however stacked up against brews like Kooinda Full Nelson BIPA, Feral Karma Chameleon and Kaiju Behemoth (also Cthulhu)… well it’s difficult to beat those brews. Good effort though BrewCult. 7/10.

Food match: Spare ribs… covered in sauce of some description along with roasted potatoes au gratin… covered in gratin of some description. Giant grilled mushrooms being the vegetarian alternative to the ribs.


Bridge Road The Dark Harvest

Total Score: 6.95/10 Earth1 Chocolate1 Smoke1 Tulipglass1

Being brewed in collaboration with gypsy brewer Mikkel Borg Bjergsø of Mikkeller back in March 2012 means that with this Dark Harvest (the named derived from the fact that this is a Black IPA with experimental hops harvested mere hours before the mash) I am rather late to the show… and also that if you were keen on trying this brew you’ll have a damn hard time tracking it down. Regardless on my quest to provide beersumer advice I continue, even if the brew is a rare limited release that you will never get your hands on, let’s press on dear reader [actually it says bottled on 10/04/14 – so not really a limited release then – peasants rejoice!].

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Big and black, not unlike like my motorcycle, with a fairly dense 1cm mocha head. Looks mocharific I must say, can’t wait to tuck in. 8/10.

S: Dark chocolate, vanilla and green (i.e. unroasted) coffee mixes with light earthy/herbal hops and a hint of smoke lingering in the background. Perhaps lacking a little in hops from other Black IPAs I’ve come to know and love (the Feral & Kooinda brews spring to mind). 7/10.

T: A subtle earthy hop note followed by some big dark chocolate and green coffee flavours and that unmistakeable smoke, finishes with some light citric bitter orange. The palate is well-balanced, though it edges towards a smoked Porter more than an IPA. As it warms the earthy tones come out more and you even get a hint of nuttiness as well. A good Black IPA then, but shy of greatness. 7/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a fairly active carbonation, perhaps a little too active. 6/10.

D: As noted above this Black IPA borders quite closely to a Porter, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing (I love a good Porter), however when you buy a Black IPA your expectation is for the best of both worlds and the hops in this are too earthy and lacking in punch. Granted, that said this is still an enjoyable drop, it just isn’t going toe to toe with Feral Karma Chameleon or Kooinda Full Nelson or Kaiju! Cthulhu On The Moon in the Black IPA stakes… still I would buy this over many Porters I’ve had in the recent past. 7/10.

Food match: Anything cooked on a barbeque, specifically char-grilled meats.


Kaiju! Beer Cthulhu On The Moon Black IPA

Total Score: 8.25/10 Chocolate1 Coffee1 Coriander1 Nonicpint1

Well now I’ve met Callum from Kaiju! Beer as well (he was manning the booth at the Sydney Sip & Savour event). We had a brief chat about their brews and he was very friendly and approachable (also passionate about beer), but as I’ve often said [this is the first time I’ve said this] “All’s fair in beer reviews, and war… two totally unrelated things.” Next up from Kaiju! is their Black IPA, the new beer style trend in Australia.

Poured from tap into 100ml sample cup at the Sip & Savour event in Sydney.

A: Deep chocolate brown body with a nice half centimetre pockmarked tan head. Big an appealing as a Black IPA should be. I’m really looking forward to this! 9/10.

S: Earthy organic chocolate, cacao nibs and a hint of unroasted coffee. Everything has a fresh, organic fragrance to it. Once again Kaiju! have stuffed their beer chock full of ingredients and it shows in the aroma. 9/10.

T: Damn! It all comes together superbly with that earthy organic chocolate, cacao nibs, unroasted coffee and a nice herbal hop bite at the end. There is a decent amount of hop oiliness as well. Not as big as Behemoth, but it was never going to be. 8/10.

M: Medium bodied with a nice dense carbonation and some slight hop resin adding slickness to the feel. 8/10.

D: Big and tasty. Hits less hard than Behemoth (of course) but it’s still a monster brew with bold, rich characteristics. The earthy organic flavours give it a real freshness, you know Kaiju! take real care when brewing, it shows in everything from the bottle labels to the taste. On the plus side I imagine this brew is cheaper than the $20/500ml Behemoth… though I wouldn’t imagine by much. 8/10.

Food match: For some reason I felt like a Vietnamese dish called Bún thịt nướng (or grilled pork with vermicelli, salad and egg rolls), don’t forget the fresh chilli!