John Smith’s Extra Smooth

Total Score: 6.25/10 Barley1 Caramel1 GreenApple1 Nonicpint1

Wow, has it been a while or what? I’ve had nearly a month of a self-imposed beer review exile and now I’m back with a bang! Well maybe not a “bang” more of a “slight fizzle” because today I have lined up three classic English treats, and we all know English brews are nothing if not modest in flavour, but I love them going back to my UK pub days regardless. First on the nonic-block is the bizarrely cheap (as in “it’s bizarre I haven’t reviewed it yet because I’m cheap”) John Smith’s Extra Smooth, looks and sounds like a British Caffrey’s. Anyway without further ado, let’s a-do this brew [damn I still haven’t lost my terrible punning abilities then].

Poured from a 500ml nitro can into a nonic pint.

A: Quite an interesting looker this drop – clear golden amber body with thousands of tiny bubbles clinging resolutely to the side of the glass like some sort of beer-barnacles “beernacles” if you will. With a luscious creamy 1.3 cm nitro head that beckons you to “ave a nava” [channelling Michael Caine here] sip. Nitro beers always score highly for me on looks and this is no exception. 9/10.

S: The aroma is no slouch given the mid-strength ABV of 3.6% with cereal grain forward notes, a touch of caramel malt and a cider apple finish. You wouldn’t be wrong for thinking that sounds like an odd combination for an EPA, I was thinking the same thing. Hint of metal too… unavoidable in most can brews below 5% ABV IMO. 7/10.

T: The cereal notes are prominent and frankly remind me of a typical Aussie “Bitter” – I use this term liberally as there is no longer such a beast here – caramel and apples rounds out this cereal dominated brew. Finish is more dry than bitter. Aftertaste is unmistakably metallic – a shame given how well it was going above. 6/10.

M: Feel is a bit of a letdown too – watery, thin and flat. 5/10.

D: Sessionable brew? Sure! However “sessionable” doesn’t always translate to “awesome” and this beer is an example of this. It begins with much promise but ends up being a bit too lacking and metallic in the flavour department to get it across the GEB* line. If I had to make a suggestion for a similar styled English nitro brew Boddingtons is still the champ… need to review that one now. 6/10.

Food match: THE most underrated soup of ALL TIME: Pea and ham & crusty bread.

*Great English Brew.

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Adnams Ghost Ship Pale Ale

Total Score: 7.75/10 GreenMelon1 Biscuit1 Lemon1 Nonicpint1

On to Adnams and their nautically-themed beers, this time Ghost Ship, a ghostly Pale Ale (their words). Now I quite enjoyed their Broadside, an English Special Bitter-cum-Old Ale, so I was a teeny bit excited to give this a go, with a sense of apprehension at the low 4.5% ABV (low ABVs generally go hand in hand with muted flavours)… after reviewing the HUGE disappointment of a Pale Ale that is Matilda Bay’s Lazy Yak I’m not holding my breath on this blowing my socks off.

Poured from a 440ml can into a nonic pint.

A: Presents a clear amber body with a fluffy 1 cm white-with-a-hint-of-beige head that soon settles to a thin covering leaving spiderweb lace on the side of the glass – a good sign indeed mateys (I’m continuing the nautical themes in my review). 7/10.

S: Melon and stone fruit characters lead the nose followed by a nice earthy & herbaceous note and some toasted biscuit malts. There are touches of bread yeast in the background as well… this is one ship shape brew, ahoy! 7/10.

T: At first the flavour is mild and unassuming, like a cool summers sea breeze wafting over Portsmouth. Then we get some slight citric acidity, a light and sweet malt toasted malt base, and a touch of tea-leaf tannin and citric bitterness in the finish… No stormy seas here, just smooth sailing. Any negatives in the flavour department? Well it’s the same issue I, personally, have with any beer below the 6% ABV mark – it could benefit from a little more flavour intensity. 8/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a light, slightly dense bubbled, almost English pub (but a little bit more active) carbonation, better than a tankard of grog. 8/10.

D: Sessionable? Very, and for the price it is even better than most craft beers on the Australian market at a downright reasonable $13 a 4-pack (that’s nearly 2 litres of a half-decent Pale Ale). Recently I’ve found myself keeping good English Ales in the fridge alongside Torpedo cans and FBS bottles – and this is a great go-to option for when Plonk runs out of Tanglefoot cans (which they’re selling for $14 a 4-pack), overall I’m impressed by this easy-drinking EPA with hints of APA and will definitely get it again in future… weigh anchor and hoist the mizzen me mateys! 8/10.

Food match: The overall fruitiness and herbaceous character of this atypical English Pale Ale would work well with fresh asian cuisines such as Vietnamese or Korean.

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Oakham Ales Inferno

Total Score: 7.3/10 PapayaMango1 Tea1 Lemon1 Nonicpint1

Oakham Ales, the oak that is the ham of Ales, fine delicious Ale ham – that’s Oakham. Enough wordplay! I’ve got myself another Oakham Ale, and I bloody enjoy a good pint of Citra, so I naturally clutched at the bottle of Inferno as soon as I saw it at Plonk, I knew good times were ahead of me. Interesting fact about Oakham: Apparently their “trophy cabinet is bursting at the seams…” and why are we not surprised? Note: If you haven’t tried their Citra yet I implore you to stop reading, burn your computer, run down to your local bottleshop wearing potato chip packets on your feet whilst screaming “I’m a happy little pony!”† and try it now.

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Once again Oakham certainly like to bring out some hazy urine coloured Ales… not that I’m complaining – same colour out as in, easy on the kidneys I guess. The head is a thin white lace covering. 7/10.

S: More Oakham goodness – Jolly Rancher mango (does that even exist?) [of course it does – you can get every flavour candy in America, no matter how stupid an idea the flavour is] with hints of lemon, tea leaf and a toasted malt base. 8/10.

T: Ehhh. It’s good, not as good as their Citra though. The profile is quite soft and light upfront with hints of mango, tea leaf and lemon, but it’s finished with an acrid medicinal bitterness that seems a touch unforgiving and unwarranted given the brevity of the flavour characters. Perhaps I’m being a tad harsh but I don’t really see a niche for this brew in the Oakham line-up. Nor am I detecting five different Yakima Valley hop blends… so there’s that too. 7/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with some flat old English pub carbonation. Spot on UK brew. 8/10.

D: Citra is much better than Inferno… and similar. Which is a shame as Oakham could have branched out in a new direction but it’s like they’re a dog playing the same tricks… no wait – a pony. A one-trick pony. Huh, I’m a happy little pony with all my metaphors coming home to roost, like a chicken… no wait – a pony. A pony coming home to roost… yeah, that works. 7/10.

Food match: Roast lamb and gravy roll – pub style! [Awww yeah!]

†Addendum: Yeah, don’t do that, really.

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Young Henry’s Real Ale

Total Score: 6.6/10 Lemon1 Malt1 Tea1 Nonicpint1

Time for some Young Henry’s Real Ale, and boy (girl/superstar DJ’s) am I excited, not for this beer but for the newly restocked fridge and the beers I have on offer in my future reviews… oh and this review will be good too… eh, who am I kidding? I had Real Ale 3 weeks ago at the Young Henry’s mini tap takeover at The Durham [spoiler: not as good as the Hop Ale]. Let’s do this so I can crack on with my next review… actually the one after, I’m not so excited about the next beer I have to review… just skip reading that one.

Poured from tap into a nonic pint.

A: Hazy amber body with a thin white head that shrinks into oblivion fairly fast – not great, less inspiring than the Hop Ale, with a “ho” and a “hum”. 5/10.

S: Fruity Fuggle-like* hop aromas with a solid toffee malt base. Très Anglais or “Very English” said in French the language English people most admire. One thing I did annotate is how muted the notes are – I know it’s practically a mid-strength at 4% ABV but there are plenty of well-endowed mid-strength aromas out there, and this isn’t one of them. 6/10.

T: Fruity hops combine with citric note and follow through to a light toffee malt base. Finishes with the sort of lea leaf characteristic you would find in a classic English IPA and the flavour is a step in the right direction, though it is still leaving me wanting more. 7/10.

M: Mid to light bodied, borderline watery in feel with a thin UK pub carbonation. Close to style but a touch “meh”. 6/10.

D: The easier Ale to drink but overall more of a boring English cousin to the Hop Ale’s brash almost obnoxious American personality. These days I do tend towards bigger beers, nothing insane – just more flavourful, so I really wasn’t awestruck by Real Ale and went straight back to the Hop Ale afterwards. As far as this brew goes though it is a decent effort for an Australian brewer to make a beer this English and a throwback to a bygone era where men wore Alan Whickers and Syrup of Figs. 7/10.

Food match: In Cockney – Dead and sneeze or a nice and mild Ruby Murray.

*They probably are Fuggles hops, as the saying I just made goes “Where there’s Fuggles hops, there’s fruity aromas”.

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Holgate Mt Macedon Pale Ale

Total Score: 6/10 Caramel1 Honeycomb1 HopFlower1 Nonicpint1

Named after the mighty mount Macedon, the towering vast 3,284 ft summit in Victoria, Australia (known as Geboor or Geburrh in the local Aboriginal dialect) is my latest beer review from the stalwart Holgate brewhouse. We’ve had good times Holgate and I: Road Trip, Temptress, and the-one-I-tried-but-didn’t-review-because-I was-tipsy-at-The-Archive (Hopinator)… oh and I recently had a taste of their limited release White Ale, which was superlative… point in case I have much respect for the brewer known as Holgate.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a tulip glass.

A: Presents with the typical hazy amber body of a craft Pale Ale with a thin white lace on top… activity in the glass is minimal but visible. 7/10.

S: Fruity and floral hops upfront, slightly subdued but present nonetheless and promising a Pale Ale that one with a diploma in Hop-Headery would be after. Caramel malt and honey rounds out the aroma nicely… not brilliant, but OK. 7/10.

T: Hmmm… you know what this is? Beer by committee. A recipe for something average at best. I am disappointed in you Holgate. The profile is as above – caramel malt, touch of honey and a slight fruity/floral hop finish, mild in bitterness for the style… which is an American Pale Ale or an English one, I can’t tell because it doesn’t have the generous malting of an English one or the hopping of an American… bit of neither really. 5/10.

M: Best aspect of this brew – a mid to light body with mid to light carbonation. Still manages to be middle of the road, but a middle of the road mouthfeel is good. 8/10.

D: Worst. Holgate. Brew. Yet. Just to explain my “Beer by committee” comment – this is one of those craft beers designed to engage new craft beer drinkers into the fold, and the thing that Holgate doesn’t realise is that they needn’t do this. To use a personal analogy – I got into progressive rock music by listening to the band Tool, then I started listening to softer prog rock bands and thought “No Tool is both heavier and better than other bands, I’m glad I begun by listening to Tool” – it’s the same thing; Holgate: Continue making decent big(ish) beers and new drinkers will be introduced to your fold and will like you even more for it – don’t try to pander to the masses. And a small tip for this beer: Loads more hops. 6/10.

Food match: It’s not often I recommend beer-battered fish and chips with a Pale Ale, but mild brews call for mild foods.

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Brains SA Gold

Total Score: 6.7/10 Lemon1 Biscuit1 Tea1 Nonicpint1

Well I’m back for more Brains, like the incessant beer zombie I am, this time I received a recommendation from a Welshman (those people from Wales), and I work in a bottleshop now – imagine that – the bottleshop attendant receiving a recommendation from a customer! Anyway I thought I would give it a go as I have a tendency to neglect Wales (don’t we all) and her lovely names with multiple consonants like: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, which is the second longest place name in the world after: Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu (in New Zealand, I kid you not).

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Hazy light honey coloured body with a nice compact 2cm white head on top, tis a Pale Ale in more than just name. 7/10.

S: Light citrus (lemon drops) mingles with a broad toasted biscuit base and some tea leaf in the background, it’s a very Oxfordshire Pale Ale aroma then, and quite strong for a 4.7% ABV brew. Nice, not outstanding, just nice. 7/10.

T: Not as sweet as expected, that lemon drop flavour is more bitter than sweet and the toasted biscuit provides a hint of sweetness with a dry cracker note. Finishes with that much expected, and perhaps maligned – depending on your stance on tea, black tea leaf character. Hint of sour in there from the citric note gives this brew some intriguing complexity, but ultimately there are some outstanding English Ales out there, and competing against them is a challenge. 7/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a light English (or should I say “Welsh”?) pub carbonation. 6/10.

D: It’s a good drop this, not Bishops Finger or Landlord great, but nonetheless decent. I did however keep reminding myself that I have the new and exceedingly well-priced cans of Bishops Finger beckoning in my fridge (from Plonk)… Plonk also have Hobgoblin cans, a different style yes but also excellent (and on my mind)… too many great English Ales, too little time. Oh and the flavour of this is a little more dry than I like. 6/10.

Food match: Label says: White fish and cheese, obviously not together on the same plate, I agree with this recommendation.

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Kosciuszko Pale Ale

Total Score: 6.2/10 GreenMelon1 Passionfruit1 Peach1Nonicpint1

Recommended by the bottle shop guy as one of his personal favourites. Brewed in Jindabyne originally, but now at Malt Shovel (aka James Squire) in Camperdown Sydney, this is the sort of brew that I now call a GCB (Gateway Craft Beer: A brew that is good to introduce new people to craft beer due to the light, easy hopping).

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a tulip pint.

A: Cloudy Pale orange body that is typical of bottle conditioned Ales. The foamy white head settled from 2.5cm to 0.5cm fairly quickly but it didn’t die down to nothing at least (like most other beers on the market). 7/10.

S: Wisps of passionfruit mixed with honeydew melon. Quite a pleasant aroma, but the hops are not as floral as I would expect or like from this style. The grains/malts are non-existent so far. 8/10.

T: Interesting, this Pale Ale is both fruity (melon and stone-fruits) and bland. It’s got a theme however it falls flat when it comes to the strength of character/flavour. I find myself wanting more of a kick from this, which is sad because the flavour profile is great but it’s just lacking a little more punch. The grains/malts are again non-existent here; this is a hop driven brew but the hops themselves could use a bit of amping up. 5/10.

M: Good on this front. It’s a little fizzy for the style but not so bad that it stands out… much… The body is a touch on the light side. 8/10.

D: Nice effort for a micro-brewery however it is certainly lacking on the flavour side and one can’t help but think if only they put just a bit more hops into the fermentation that this would be up there on par with Little Creatures and Co. In fact the more I drink this the more I realise that I’ve got a drawer full of Little Creatures Pale Ale’s to dip into in my fridge and maybe it’s time to crack another one open… hell yeah! 6/10.

Food match: An Ale you could probably match anything light with. Roast chicken with a light salad comes to mind. Just leave out the gravy.

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