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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Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast

Total Score: 7.65/10 Coffee1BrownSugar1Earth1Tulipglass1

Yes!!! It’s the original, the one and only, the beer that made Mikkel Borg Bjergsø world famous, it’s… [drum-roll]: Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast!!! *WOO!* So after the disappointment of Mikkeller Koppi Coffee IPA Citra & Simcoe, I decided to pull the trigger and go straight on to Beer Geek Breakfast, which is another beer I’ve been hunting since I started reviewing craft beers – that’s a 7 year journey I’ve been on, and in 2018 I’ve already reviewed 4 beers I’ve been searching for since 2011, and 1 more that’s coming up [hint it’s a: something-BS]. Great year 2018, even though I’ve slowed down on my reviews the quality of the beers I’ve got my hands on has been stellar. Here’s to the democratisation of beers! Brewer to the people!

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Pitch-dark-brown, like a browny-murky tar-like substance, with a tan-coloured lace ring where a head would normally lie – weirdly the exact opposite (head-wise) of Beer Geek Flat White, which had an almost Guinness-like nitro head [note: it was not a nitro beer]. Still Flat White was the outlier, this beer is the standard. 7/10.

S: Ooo, total cold-drip coffee aroma, I’m getting a Founders Breakfast Stout vibe right now – this beer is sending an ASMR tingle down my spine. Much like FBS there’s not much else to it, though Beer Geek Breakfast does have a sweeter, smoother aroma, like a couple teaspoons of raw sugar in a cup of coffee… actually it’s more like a confectioners sugar: sweet. 8/10.

T: Ironically flavour hits much less sweeter than FBS. Profile is: cold-drop and roasted espresso coffee, hints of molasses and raw sugar make an appearance but take a back seat to the roasty-earthy coffee flavours. This, compared to the other Beer Geek beers I’ve reviewed (Flat White and Vanilla Shake) is the sterner, more rigidly coffee-shot-like brew. Not that there’s anything wrong with that [not at all]. Still one had hoped for a bit more sweetness and a bit less bitterness (the aftertaste is pretty astringently bitter). 8/10.

M: Medium bodied with a thin but active carbonation that exacerbates the bitterness in the aftertaste somewhat. 7/10.

D: Look: This was a bit of a ground-breaking beer at the time it was first released back in 2006 (though Founders did beat Mikkeller to the Breakfast Stout punch) however, in 2018, it’s a bit imbalanced and not as good as the other Beer Geeks which is a slight letdown for what is still a top-shelf beer. 7/10.

Food match: This is coffee-like enough to actually pair with a morning croissant.

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Prairie Bomb!

Total Score: 8.6/10 Coffee1Chili1Chocolate1Tulipglass1

Ironically this is a beer, I am told, that lives up to its name: (the) Bomb! This 13% ABV American Imperial Stout has an assortment of ingredients that conjure up images of a deep, shadowy and impressive brew that the Gods themselves might sup on within the mighty halls of Valhalla: Spaceship Earth roasted coffee, cacao nibs, vanilla beans, and ancho chilli peppers – yep, that’s a recipe for “awesome-sauce” in any legitimate definition of said word (which I borrowed from ‘Parks and Recreation’). Indeed I’ve never had the urge to waffle less in one of these preambles than I do right now: the desire to crack this dark temptress open and imbibe the black ooze within is a powerful aphrodisiac that I am too weak to resist *crown cap pops* [still managed to waffle though – the waffle is strong with me].

Poured from a 355ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Deep opaque inky black nightmare of a body with a chocolate brown dense head that sticks around impressively well and belies that 13% ABV that is waiting to consume me soon enough. 9/10.

S: Earthy AF, roasty AF as well… verdant roasted cold-drip coffee mingles freely with vanilla and coffee cherry hints, a lingering sweet roasted malt base, then a bit of smoke and dark chocolate. Not getting much in the way of the ancho chilli peppers, but as we [I! The Royal “we”! You know, the editorial…] know that chilli in beer tends to come across more in the flavour profile (and generally in the back of the throat). 9/10.

T: Flavour profile hits with that pervading earthy AF/roasty AF character noted above and follows through to a broad mid-palate coffee/dark chocolate sweetness and a good sweet/bitter balance IMO (maybe a tad towards the dessert side if you’re not a fan of dessert beers though). Hints of vanilla and smoke come in towards the finish, and yes there’s a chilli bite at the back, though I reckon Bomb! could get away with more chilli. Balance is pretty sublime – a real Imp Stout sipper right here. Bit of booze in the aftertaste that detracts a little though. 9/10.

M: Heavy bodied and a bit too sticky and cloying here – less of that please. 7/10.

D: Apart from a mouthfeel that requires a good old tongue scrapping, this is a solid Imp Stout that puts Prairie on the map for me. It’s like a halfway between Founders Breakfast Stout and Omnipollo Selassie, with the chilli adding a nice touch of heat to the proceedings. Price is a sore point at $23 AUD a bottle, yep. 8/10.

Food match: Something dark and spicy: Mole Poblano with rice and black bean.

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Evil Twin Imperial Mexican Biscotti Cake Break

Total Score: 8.25/10 Chocolate1Vanilla1Chili1Tulipglass1

Well this one certainly takes the cake [break]! Evil Twin Imperial Mexican Biscotti Cake Break. Which is a collaboration with Westbrook, and a bloody big one at that! This 10.5% ABV behemoth is brewed with coffee, cinnamon, almonds, cocoa nibs, vanilla beans and habanero peppers, which reminds me of #11 on my all-time beer list: Stone Xocoveza… that is a damn good thing to be reminded of. Lately my reviews of Evil Twin have been interesting to say the least – I bounced off Imperial Biscotti Break somewhat (it was way too thin body-wise), however Even More Coco Jesus was so good it’s made it into my top 50 (currently at #43)… not sure what to expect with Imperial Mexican Biscotti Cake Break, I’m assuming by the name that it’s brewed with the Biscotti Break recipe, here’s hoping it’s got body.

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

A: Poured hard and as viscous as Texas tea (that’s oil son) into the glass, foaming up with a nice dense mocha head and a body black as the ace of spades “there goes the neighbourhood” to quote Monty Python. The head settles to nothing, leaving an inky black brew… ominous stuff. 8/10.

S: Dark/bitter 80% chocolate, vanilla, smoky char, a hint of tobacco and roasted espresso. Not much in the way of cinnamon or almond, and the habanero only comes through in smoky notes. TBH I thought this would be an aroma assault of the senses but its very restrained and comes across as a simple American Imperial Stout. Hoping the flavour kicks me in the groin [just a little]. 7/10.

T: There we go! There’s a lot to parse in the flavour profile – dark chocolate and cacao nibs upfront, hints of cinnamon and vanilla centre, coffee and char late palate, burnt sugar sweetness gives it a cakey feel, and the finish adds a nice kiss of habanero chilli. This is a BIG [Bearing Immense Gusto] flavour profile that leaves nothing to the imagination – it’s hard to imagine anything while you’re being kicked in the face with multiple flavours. Also while all this flavour-face-kicking is going on I’m getting 10.5% ABV into my system whilst barely noticing it, yay. 9/10.

M: Heavy and viscous with a creamy/almost-flat carbonation, fairly smooth but could be thicker (e.g. Even More Coco Jesus had better body). 8/10.

D: This was one “don’t mess with me motherf__ker!” brew. Hats off to Evil Twin, who managed to bring a shopping list of ingredients together without the beer tasting overwrought. Still prefer Even More Coco Jesus though. 8/10.

Food match: Have a cigar and prep the stomach pump.

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AleSmith Speedway Stout

Total Score: 8.95/10 Coffee1DarkFruits1Wood1Tulipglass1

Well looks like I finally got my hands on AleSmith Speedway Stout, and this thing is monolithic at 12% ABV – I mean it’s going to be a BIG (Bearing Immense Gusto) brew. Plus as a coffee stout it has some epic competition in the likes of Founders Breakfast Stout and my recent favourite Omnipollo Selassie Stout… it almost makes you wonder “If I was a brewer would I even want to throw my hat into the coffee stout ring”? It’s like placing your head inside the lions jaw (to borrow another circus metaphor). AleSmith are no slouches though – they know how to brew a BIG one. Time to bring out my “big book of words that describe the colour black” again… obsidian? Yeah we’ve heard that one before!

Poured from a 473ml can into a Duvel tulip.

A: Presents an opaque stygian atramentous [see, I found an even more complicated word to describe obsidian!] body with a pretty decent mocha head that hangs in there like a champ (given the 12% ABV). This doesn’t look as motherf__king ominous as other American Imperial Stouts, but perhaps this is the calm before the shitstorm? 8/10.

S: Nose is quite a bouquet of rich coffee bean, chicory, charred wood, oak, dark fruits (prune/plum), and a touch of brandy… and this next statement feels very Douglas Adams-like but: what a fragrant beer this speedway is. Look it’s a damn epic aroma – there’s no escaping it – it’s a black hole of an aroma: sucking in my olfactory senses into it like a dying star. 10/10.

T: Mmmmm-f__king-tastic! Creamy AF, but we’ll get to that, all of the above: coffee bean, chicory, charred wood, oak, prune, plum, touch of brandy, yes please sir! Plus, PLUS: it doesn’t taste anything near 12% ABV (‘cept for a little warming in the aftertaste). Pure genius AleSmith! [insert a bit more hyperbole here] Now some bad points: finish is slightly more bitter than wanted/warranted, and the coffee character isn’t as prominent as in FBS or Selassie… but damn this: spot hit. 9/10.

M: Heavy bodied, reasonably viscous, not quite Founders body (but nothing I’ve found yet beats Founders body), creamy-super-dense carbonation. 9/10.

D: Was not expecting this to come close to FBS but Speedway really does manage to come close, were it not for that bitter edge and the coffee flavour being less than prominent I might have been able to crown my new favourite coffee stout – but sorry FBS still claims that title by a narrow margin. 8/10.

Food match: I feel like smoking cigars in a totally non-exclusionary club right now.

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Omnipollo Selassie Imperial Stout

Total Score: 9.1/10 Coffee1Vanilla1Smoke1Tulipglass1

My first review of a beer from Swedish brewer Omnipollo – and of course I went straight for the Stouty jugular with their Selassie Imperial Stout (infused with Ethiopian coffee: Yirgacheffe is one of my top ten of coffee beans baby!). I have a history of beginning a new brewery with their Imperial Stouts (eg: Founder Breakfast Stout). If it’s a coffee-infused RIS all the better. That said I almost purchased a bottle of Omnipollo’s Anagram Blueberry Cheesecake Stout, which is now sold out at my local “were it not for the grace of God”, oh well. Selassie is my horse tonight, and I think I backed a winner: BeerAdvocate has Selassie well ahead of Anagram! This ain’t a one horse race either – I think I saw a bottle of Noa Pecan Mud Cake left at my local too, better get right on that one.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Black as Satan’s sports car (a Lamborghini Diablo of course) body with a deep mocha-hued head that is surprisingly resilient for this brews 11% ABV… I’ve rarely seen a head at that ABV descend so slowly – credit to Omnipollo – this is one damn impressive and ominous drop. 10/10.

S: This reminds me of FBS so far – horribly dark, syrupy/murky appearance… and the aroma, which is one-note: vanilla and cold press coffee. This subtlety no doubt belies a tongue-smashing flavour. It’s the ones that don’t sledgehammer you with aroma that you have to watch out for. 7/10.

T: Tongue-smashing: yes. Smashing my buds like a wrecking-ball of awesomeness… and coffee… and vanilla. Is it sweet? You better believe it sister! Though it’s far from a sugar-bomb: It’s spot-on. Impossible to fault this flavour. I would love to compare this to FBS, but I’ve not seen it here in a while, and the bottle I’ve got has been sitting in my fridge a year now [too precious to waste says Gollum]. 10/10.

M: The question on everyone(who is reading this review and knows my work)’s lips: “is it Founder’s body good?”… not quite – it’s almost there, it’s heavy bodied, but it’s more Jay Kay smooth [whereas FBS is Marvin Gaye smooth]. Still pretty f**ken soulfully-smooth nonetheless. Spotify “Talulah” if you doubt me. 9/10.

D: No doubt Omnipollo are FBS fans – they’ve studied the Founder’s playbook well: simple coffee flavours, just the right level of sweetness, oily/chewy body and nary a hint of Alcoburn™ to slow you down… yep, these Omnipollo peeps know how to breakfast up a Stout, but there is only one FBS [answer: FBS]. 9/10.

Food match: Much like FBS it’s hard to imagine food with this – just drink it FFS.

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Bacchus Brewing Timmy Ho’s Double Double

Total Score: 6.85/10 Coffee1BrownSugar1Chocolate1Tulipglass1

Been looking forward to this one since… well, since last week when it came in to my local Black Sheep Bottle Shop (at Stafford, QLD). Still feels like a long time to be waiting to crack open a Bacchus brew as they have so much creativity poured into them – as I mentioned last time round they’re like the Australian Mikkeller, and I love Mikkeller (any craft beer aficionado worth their salt loves Mikkeller!). So this is one that I’m really looking forward to as an out-and-out coffee snob: Timmy Ho’s Double Double, i.e. double cream, double sugar – if it turns out to be both of those then it is game/set/match Bacchus.

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Deep dark brown with a smattering of black body and a wafer thin tan to mocha head on top. Hard not to be drawn in by such an ominous appearance – I do love Stouts for that reason – so dark: Like the heart of Africa it beats and stirs up primal urges before releasing its intoxicating fragrances. 8/10.

S: Double “Yes! Please and thank you!” bold espresso coffee with red coffee bean characters smacks one across the face with a challenge that one can only reply to with “Moi?”. There are also impressions of brown sugar, demerara sweetness and hints of molasses finishing off this heady Coffee/Milk Stout scent. If there’s one complaint, and it is positive to note that this very same complaint was registered in my review of FBS (a beer that needs no de-abbreviation): It’s a little one-dimensional in the aroma… prepare thyself Doc. 7/10.

T: Unfortunately it’s no Australian FBS… shame because you could really go somewhere with that cachet. Flavours turned out to be a mix between espresso and filter coffee, brown sugar, 70% chocolate and a hint of vanilla. It’s tasty, yes, certainly and indeed, but it needs a bit of something something… actually the flavour is pretty decent – the mouthfeel is distracting though. 7/10.

M: Overtly thin body (mid to light) given the style, with a fizzy carbonation and less density than is needed here. 5/10.

D: This is one beer that really fell on its sword re: Mouthfeel – it really makes a difference with a beer that is heavy/sticky/chewy like FBS and this offering to the beer gods from Bacchus (aka the wine god). Of course flavour isn’t as great as FBS, so it’s not perfect there either. However with a woefully thin and gassy mouthfeel this brew was headed nowhere for me. #mouthfeelmatters 7/10.

Food match: Oats, lots of oats… wait that’s what the beer needed, oh well. Stew!

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