Last Rites The Big Smelly Doona Imperial Pale Ale

Total Score: 8.9/10 HopFlower1Bread1Peach1Nonicpint1

If this Last Rites The Big Smelly Doona is an Imperial Pale Ale at 9% ABV I’ll eat my hat! No, actually I won’t, because it’s clearly a Double or Imperial IPA at that ABV. Plus I like wearing my hat on my head – why would I eat it? This limited edition (says it on the can label) brew already uses a word that I refuse to use to describe a beer: “dank”. Well beer is wet so technically every beer ever made is dank, what a stupid terminology! Anyhow I didn’t mind the Ella Springtime Ale, so I thought I would give The Big Smelly Doona (an Aussie word for a type of quilted blanket) a go… hmmm, wordplay intended there? Yes, I’ll roll with it, let’s move on to the review whilst grumbling about how “a listing of the hops used would have been nice”.

Poured from a 375ml can into a nonic pint.

A: Cloudy deep amber hued body and a nice creamy Ecru-coloured head that drops back to a half cm blanket leaving some platform lace inside the glass. The fact that this has decent head retention at 9% puts it up there with the best. 9/10.

S: Like a colossal battle between malt/hops, this IIPA wages a war my tongue is inviting in for tea and biscuits. Aroma is bready/biscuity malt sweetness mingling with herbal, cannabis, orange peel, piney and earthy hops. There is a whiff of a great beer that all craft beer drinkers (as old myself) will remember from the early days of “bigger and bitterer = better” in IIPAs (aka “those west coast IPA dayz”*). 9/10.

T: Promises and absolutely delivers with a West Coast IIPA the likes of which I have not tasted in some time. Flavours noted above: bready/biscuity malts, herbal/cannabis/orange peel/piney and earthy hops. Throw in a bit of dried apricot too for sweetness. Also has a pretty sublime balance between sweet/bitter, finish is medium bitterness. Such an approachable beer at this ABV, I’ve been completely disarmed by its charm. 9/10.

M: Mid to heavy bodied, like a warm smelly doona – the name is appropriate then, with a dense/creamy carbonation. This may be slightly too thick IMO. 8/10.

D: An elegant IIPA for a more (bitter and) civilized age. With a well-hidden 9% ABV too. There’s nothing like a good IIPA that has aged well (brewed 12/12/17), tbh I probably would have found this too aggressively hopped had I tried it fresh but now it’s just right to drink. Cheers Last Rites! [don’t read them to me] 9/10.

Food match: This versatile brew would ace it with gourmet pizza or BBQ fare.

*Needs to be spelled with a ‘z’: because.


Brewski Donkeyboy DIPA

Total Score: 8.85/10 HopFlower1Pineapple1Coriander1Tulipglass1

So yeah, the first Brewski I tried: Mango Hallon Feber was a total wash – something went wrong in that bottle/batch because it was crazy overcarbed and spicy-hot with hop bitterness, like a hop tea (made with hop pellets and water – pure hops, pure bitterness, and spicy). I’m pinning my hopes on Donkeyboy being drinkable as I could tell from the aroma of the last one that these Brewski guys make real craft brews, so let’s move on from the disaster that was Mango Hallon Feber – and all hail Donkeyboy! Plus this one has the most interesting label – not that labels have ever been a solid criteria of mine, it is nice to look upon a decent label every once and a while but if a beer with a crap label tastes awesome who cares about the label right?

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: This one pours and looks fairly normal: Cloudy pale golden body replete with hop particles floating around, with a thin white ring instead of a head, looks much less gassy too (bonus!). 8/10.

S: Aroma is massive ripe pineapple and papaya hops with an almost herbal/green passionfruit quality as well, it’s basically just hops mate – if you’re looking for hops you found ‘em, right ‘ere. Surprisingly though I actually preferred the aroma of Mango Hallon Feber (just not the rest). 8/10.

T: Back to normality (in a good way!) with Donkeyboy – this is classic DIPA territory: Hints of pineapple and papaya, much more piney and herbal than expected, dry cracker malt base and a touch of spice in the finish with a medium bitterness. Very refreshing given the 8% ABV – doesn’t cloy in the slightest. Hint of alcohol in there, but not enough to detract. Again the question is how did a beer this hop fresh get from Sweden to Australia without hop fade? I can only imagine how many hop cones were crammed into this tasty beverage. 9/10.

M: Fairly decent here too (so far looks like Mango Hallon Feber was a one-off) medium bodied with a reasonably dense but yielding carbonation, pretty much on the money. 8/10.

D: Eminently drinkable (thank Buddha!) and up there with the best, especially how fresh it tastes after travelling the globe to get to my greasy mits. Well I’m back to looking forward to the rest of the Brewski’s now. In fact I’m tempted to get a couple more bottles of this – rarely do DIPAs this fresh come along. 10/10.

Food match: Vietnamese rice paper rolls with sweet soy dipping sauce.


4 Pines Keller Door Imperial IPA

Total Score: 7.35/10 Malt1Pineapple1HopFlower1Tulipglass1

After the featherweight 4 Pines Indian Summer Pale Ale this 9% ABV 84 IBU 4 Pines Keller Door Imperial IPA is going to be like getting a sandwich carefully crafted for you by Mike Tyson… that is a knuckle sandwich. As I’m mentally preparing myself for the giddying high one gets from hops and alcohol combined en masse it occurs to me that this will be the biggest beer I’ve had since Jan 2016, and it’s already March – wow! [cracks fingers and neck] OK I’m going in – Brewronimo!

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Presents with a clear perfect amber body and a chunky 2 cm off-white head that retains well – a complete 180 on the Indian Summer Pale Ale – if I were to choose between the two beers based on looks this one would definitely take the win. 8/10.

S: Pineapple chunks in pineapple syrup with a light pineapple glaze on top. You get what I mean – this is a pineapple lovers wet dream. Heaps of sugary malt and other notes – piney, light cannabis herbal hop characters as well. Overall the aroma is heady and sounds a giant klaxon with a Tannoy message playing out “Warning: Prepare for sticky/gooey pineapple!” Love it. 9/10.

T: Flavour is an all-malt sugar assault on the senses, with some hops thrown in. Soooo much sugar! I’m actually booking in an appointment with my dentist right now. What about all that pineapple? It’s there, in an advisory capacity to the malt, but really sweet sugary malt is the chief of staff with this brew. So let’s recap the flavours: Malt upfront, pineapple/herbal/piney hops centre and finishes with a light (for IPA standards) hop bitterness. Aftertaste is like some sort of odd hop honey. What is missing? Balance between malt/hops of course, duh. 7/10.

M: Medium bodied, some hop oiliness is present, with a borderline flat carbonation. 8/10.

D: I bet you $1 billion (which I don’t actually have) that this has NZ hops in it – because the hop aroma is fantastic but the flavour is malt dominated – as I’ve found with the biggest hop brews coming out of NZ. Which is a shame because everything else is great and it doesn’t nearly feel as weighty as other 9% brews can be (i.e. the alcohol hides well here) and I do quite enjoy 4 Pines Keller releases (in fact I believe most of these brews should be made year-round), however there is simply too much sugar happening in this ale as it stands and I cannot afford to become another blip on the rapidly growing western-world diabetes statistics. 6/10.

Food match: Turkey stuffed with Insulin and a side of mash with gravy.


Epic Hop Zombie DIPA

Total Score: 8.1/10 Caramel1 PapayaMango1 HopFlower1Tulipglass1

From the mighty Aotearoa comes the equally mighty Epic Hop Zombie DIPA, which is overall the highest rated NZ brew I could get my tasting mits on. The $12 question is: Will it beat Tuatara’s mighty Double Trouble DIPA? You might(y) find out soon enough! So what is a DIPA you ask? DIPA stands for Double Imperial Pale Ale – a style born in the US of A that is similar to an India Pale Ale (that is a Pale Ale with higher gravity, i.e. alcohol, that was developed in the UK to survive a long sea voyage to the British troops in India), however it generally contains an even bigger hop presence. The “Imperial” is borrowed from Russian Imperial Stouts, which were indeed the drink of choice for Czars, hence DIPA… Confused? You should be.

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Clear (Really?! Filtered craft beer!?) golden bodied with a thin white lace ring. Not the most impressive of starts, you all know my dislike of filtered brews (Yeast is good, let’s leave it alone people!). 6/10.

S: Whoa! Quite a bouquet of tropical fruits (papaya, mango, passionfruit and jackfruit) with pine resin notes on a bed of bread and biscuit malt. Smells like one of the tastiest DIPA’s my nose has ever had the pleasure of inhaling, as they would say in Kiwiland “Choice bro!”. 10/10.

T: And then prepare to be surprised again – it’s almost sugar-bomb sweet with caramel/biscuit/toffee malts all over the place, a bit deceptive as by the aroma you would expect a full-on hop affair. The hops are indeed there (how could they not be?) however they have less a hold on the flavour than the aroma, and it seems there’s less tropical fruit on the table when you finally get to “dig in”. The finish is bitter with notes of the above of pine/tropical hops. 8/10.

M: Medium bodied, oily with hop resin, with a light (almost flat) carbonation. 6/10.

D: Mine’s a dud, or this is how it’s meant to be, either way the hops are all bark (nose) no bite (taste) and I’m struggling to reconcile this with the all-powerful and juicy Tuatara Double Trouble DIPA (which really takes a big smelly [hop smelly] dump all over this brew). I was so hoping this would be better than the Trouble2 as Tuatara’s drop is a limited release and this is a rotating brew… I’ll have to buy as much Tuatara as I can carry. Tuatara = 1 : Epic = 0 so far. 8/10.

Food match: I would have suggested brains if this Hop Zombie had lived up to its eponym, however I am more inclined to suggest not-brains or Italian cuisine.