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.

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New England Brewing Co Puska Australian Sahti

Total Score: 7.05/10 Earth1Clove1Wood1Tulipglass1

First Doc bruview for a New England brew. I’ll be honest: I’ve tried most of their beers and I haven’t reviewed any of them yet because I’m just not a fan of their house style. Their yeast is all wrong, it’s not a good strain that they’re using, and consequentially all their beers are too dry and musty for me. However when I saw Puska Australian Sahti I was too intrigued not to buy n’ try it. The idea of an Aussie version of the Finnish, non-hopped style of Sahti proved impossible to resist. Credit where credit is due: this is a great idea for a beer. Utilising eucalyptus branches (instead of juniper) as the mash filter, wattle seed, pepperberry (and hops it seems), this beer from New England will hopefully not be as dry as the Simpson desert and musty as my bedroom book shelf.

Poured from a 500ml can into a Duvel tulip.

A: Hazy deep amber body with a 2 centimetre cream-coloured head that dissolves leisurely leaving a sticky lace inside the glass. The amber colour of this beer, and the slight haze, is spot on for looking like something that might trap an ancient mosquito – quite mesmerising. 8/10.

S: Aroma smells dry, with a eucalyptus thumbprint all over it, but not much else. There’s some earthy dry notes with hints of pepper as well as woody/nutty tone. Sweetness is hard to detect, this is definitely following the New England pattern for brewing desert dry beers, however in this instance and given the style I’m not so bothered about it, i.e. 7/10.

T: Certainly an interesting beer to say the least! Profile comes across vinous in flavour (and mouthfeel) with the above notes of: eucalyptus, earthy, dry, hints of pepper, woody/nutty. There’s a touch of dark fruit malt sweetness, though just a touch – the other flavours bully it into submission. Hints of cardamom come into play on a third sip. The finish is of course: bone dry [saw that one coming]. At least there’s no heavy-handed yeast jumping around saying “look at me!”. 7/10.

M: Medium bodied, fairly viscous, with a light carbonation giving this more of a wine mouthfeel than a beer one, works though. 7/10.

D: Apart from the eucalyptus (which actually detracts IMO) there’s note much to suggest anything uniquely Australian, but hey it works regardless. My usual complaint about NEB’s beers being too dry still applies, but overall this Australian Sahti experience has been OK. Decent even. 7/10.

Food match: Game meats, make it the Oz coat of arms and have roo/emu steaks 😉

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Bridge Road Mayday Hills Thursday

Total Score: 8.1/10 Earth1Coriander1Wood1Tulipglass1

Yes the brews I’m reviewing are getting more experimental and possibly more barrel-aged coming up to the big #1,000 (this review is #986 for those counting). So you will see a lot more stuff like this Bridge Road Mayday Hills Thursday, which is a Belgian Dark Ale brewed with native gin botanicals and fermented in foeder oak tanks with Brettanomyces yeast. Sounds remarkable for the many reasons just noted, with a reasonable 7.5% ABV heft to it as well I’m expecting a BIG [Bearing Immense Gusto] beer with an earthy/herbal/juniper slant. Last Mayday Hills brew (named simply “T”) has so far been my favourite Bridge Road beer of all time – it was noteworthy due to the flavour being quite white wine vinous and definitely leapt to mind when I bought this one. Here’s hoping for more of that good stuff.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Quite dark, almost opaque, cola brown body with a nice and creamy looking 1 centimetre khaki head that slowly drops back leaving faint wisps of lace on the side of the glass. This all looks rather impressive old chap [you can tell that when I revert to my proper English gentleman mode of speech]. 8/10.

S: The funk is strong with this one! Funkalicious… most funkalicious, owww! *that’s my Darth Bootsy impression wait-till-I-pull-out-my-bass-guitar voice* This is one of the most difficult aromas for me to describe as there is so much going on inside the glass – there’s a herbal/earthy/juniper dry slant as expected, but there’s the Brett and oak influence giving this brew some dusty/woody notes too. I think EARTHY (in capital letters) really jumps out the most. Hints of burnt caramel and brown sugar as well. A dash of smoke… I could go on. 9/10.

T: Again: Sooo much going on inside this glass: Earthy/herbal/juniper botanicals provide a big dry base, burnt caramel, brown sugar malt centre, Brett funk, woody notes, hint of smoke, hint of red wine character. Frankly it’s all getting a bit too complex – there’s so much steam-rolling over my palate that I’m playing catch up in my head “what was that? Juniper? WOOOSH! Earth… caram… no wait: long dry finish”. Yep, they brewed off more than I can chew here. Still tasty though. 8/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a thin carbonation, bit too thin all round. 7/10.

D: Don’t get me wrong though – this was a BIG flavoursome adventure (reminded me a bit of Bacchus King Of Denmark actually), but yeah, too much going on to make this a real delight. Keep the Maydays coming though! 8/10.

Food match: Herbal and earthy dishes, mushroom, truffles, that sort of thing.

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Stone Saison Du BUFF Red & White Wine Barrel Aged

Total Score: 8.8/10 Coriander1Flowers1WhiteWine1Tulipglass1

Stone, I love Stone [not getting stoned – not into that, sorry!]. Damn their beers can be expensive though – this corked and caged 500ml bottle cost me around $36, that’s halfway to the most expensive beer I’ve ever bought ($60 for a 330ml bottle of Westvleteren XII), anyway you get what you paid for, and Barrel-Aged beers are expensive in general. The main drawcard for me with this brew was this: rosemary. I’ve been wanting to try a beer brewed with rosemary for ages. Also parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme “remember me to one who lives there, she once was a true love of mine” – who doesn’t love Simon and Garfunkel? Probably people born this century, but really what do they know? Yeah!

Poured from a 500ml corked and caged bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Fairly hazed pale orange body with a rather active white head that fizzles out pretty quickly leaving a thin lace ring. It’s no contender for best looking beer, but it looks drinkable nonetheless. 7/10.

S: Dry and musty Brettanomyces yeast upfront provides a decent barnyard funky hay-bale Saison credentials – this is definitely a farmhouse ale, there’s no disputing that. The rest of the aroma is dedicated to herbal and floral notes, with a bit of bubble-gum thrown into the mix. Yep, this is one of those beers I could sit in the corner and sniff for ages [as long as no one sees me acting like some sort of beer-sniffing lunatic]. “Sensational aroma!” is what I could have said more aptly. 10/10.

T: Flavour is a complex mix of the above: dry/musty and spicy Brett yeast, dry herbal centre with hints of sage and thyme, white wine grapes, hints of floral notes and bubble-gum, capped off with a looooong dry herbal finish. Flavours overall of a crazy complex and exceptional brew that is a little too yeast-driven and missing the rosemary, parsley and red wine barrel characters, however this was going to be a hectic brew and those flavours have no doubt been drowned out in the sheer cacophony of ingredients. 9/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a dense and prickly carbonation. 8/10.

D: This brew more than anything reminds me of Trappist brews like Orval – herbal rich, dry and spicy – and apart from the above noted flavours being pushed out by other flavours it is bang on what I was expecting. Oh yeah, and 9.3% ABV – doesn’t taste anything near that! Another admirable effort from Stone, though a bit too many Brett strains, go easy on the yeast next time Stone. 8/10.

Food match: Roast chicken with a herb salad and roasted veggies.

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Sierra Nevada/Mikkeller Thai-Style Iced Tea

Total Score: 7.1/10 Clove1Orange1Tea1Tulipglass1

Look I’m a sucker for anything Mikkeller makes, and Sierra Nevada too for that matter – these are two brewing Gods in my pantheon and there’s nothing better than a crazy collaboration (if it works!). This beer from the “around the world” 12-pack immediately caught my eye and wouldn’t let go: 2 of my favourite brewers – check! Crazy set of ingredients including tamarind and star anise – check! 7.2% ABV – check! Brewed with black tea and lactose – check! What could even remotely go wrong with this one? Well, yeah, you’re right: everything… but hell you’ve got to give it to that ballsy Mikkeller bastard for going for the maddest ideas he can come up with (which are pretty mad TBH) and Sierra Nevada for providing the gypsy brewer with Beer Camp equipment. Salute!

Poured from a 355ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Hazed with floaty bits and an amber-coloured body with a rather large hard-poured 1 inch off-white cappuccino foam head that slowly drops back leaving latticework lace in the glass. I wonder what the floaty bits are, I’m hoping it’s spices and such, I do enjoy spice: it’s the spice of life. 7/10.

S: Star anise and sour tamarind upfront and bashing the nose repeatedly. Well it is what I asked for, so thanks Mikkeller & SN. Hints of tannic black tea and a touch of orange peel rounds out what must be said is one of the most odd beer aromas I’ve ever encountered. Not sure if I 100% like it but it’s certainly interesting. 7/10.

T: Spicy, funky and malty – in that order. Flavour is dominated somewhat by star anise, with funky tamarind and orange playing minor roles, and black tea rounding it all out. Finish lays down more tamarind funk (if you’ve never tried tamarind before you can get it in paste form at the supermarket – I use it in my yummy Pad Thai, but it’s a secret… oh wait, it was a secret, shhh!). Overall flavour profile is a bit confused, and IMO doesn’t come across with enough tea flavour to pull off the “iced tea” moniker. Still it is tasty… tasty and funky in equal measure. 7/10.

M: Medium bodied and fairly smooth – a decent mouthfeel here. 8/10.

D: Definitely one of the oddest beers I’ve encountered (and I’ve encountered a fair few beers now!). The flavour is all over the shop, like other Mikkeller swing-n-miss brews. He doesn’t always get it right and this brew is one of them. More tea and perhaps lemongrass would have pushed this in the direction it needed to go. As it is I didn’t actually mind it, but I wouldn’t bother getting it again. 7/10.

Food match: Busy thinking about my Pad Thai now, mmmmm.

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Omnipollo Original Ice Cream Pale Ale

Total Score: 9/10 Vanilla1Lemon1Flowers1Tulipglass1

It’s telling of this Omnipollo/Buxton ice cream beer collaboration that I ran out to my local and immediately bought the other two ice cream beers they had in stock – Texas pecan was an absolute ripper, and Omnipollo just have a way with dessert beers that puts them in my top 5 of dessert beer brewers (see if you can guess the other 4). Out of the 3 ice cream beers I have this is a bit more entry-level in style and ABV at 5.6%, so it’ll be interesting to see how much of a full-on, in-your-face brew this will be… though I’m guessing with the skills of both Omnipollo and Buxton combined I’m sure they’ve nailed the brief – both brewers are world class in their respective countries (Sweden and the UK).

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Cloudy AF – bit like a NEIPA at first glance – with a golden sunrise coloured body and a nice dense white head that sticks around well, excellent head retention, top marks! 9/10.

S: Floral and citric lemon hops mingle with a nice bold and sweet vanilla fragrance – this beer could in fact pass as perfume – great aroma. Though I do wonder how well citric and vanilla flavours go together as they aren’t often bedfellows. Also it’s not a greatly complex aroma, however for a Pale Ale it is ballsy, and I like balls. Big balls *ahem* yeah it’s good. 8/10.

T: Floral and lemony with a big vanilla hit – this is great! Though they should have called the beer “Original Ice Cream & Lemon Tart” because that lemon is unmistakable and detracts from it being a plain vanilla ice cream experience. The lemon also has a slight artificial character to it, though my palate does seem to be sensitive to lemon flavours (check out my Rogue Lemon Crueller review) so maybe I’m detecting an artificialness that others wouldn’t even notice. The sweetness in this is balanced perfectly (i.e. slightly sweet as I like it) with a wisp of citric bitterness. Wow, this beer goes down too easy! 9/10.

M: Medium bodied with a creamy dense carbonation – very smooth, Hall & Oates smooth “Oh-oh, here she comes, watch out boys she’ll chew you up…” ironically I suspect oats were used in this brew. 9/10.

D: Once again Omnipollo smash out another dessert beer hit, and frankly this one is dangerously more drinkable than Texas pecan, DA-AMN! The only downside is this doesn’t come in a 500ml can. Smashable stuff. 10/10.

Food match: Gourmet pizza – something with truffles and mushrooms.

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Bacchus Brewing Blackadder Goes Forth

Total Score: 7.6/10 Smoke1DarkFruits1Flowers1Tulipglass1

I’m a huge fan of Blackadder (the third series was my favourite) so seeing Bacchus embrace the genius that is Blackadder in the naming of one of their latest mad science experiments they call “beer” I was insta-sold on this. Reading the label got me more excited: “A traditional Scotch Ale with some cunning twists. We used Scottish Barley & infused the wort with heather tips. We then added Sinamar (pure malt extract) to turn it black & then spiced with a dash of Octomore Peated Whisky.” Shit yeah, this sounds like a brew so cunning you could stick a tail on it and call it a weasel [Blackadder reference FYI]. The Bacchus beers are nothing if not interesting, which is why this is my 20th Bacchus review, keep ‘em coming Ross!

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Yep, she’s black as – darkest Scotch Ale I’ve encountered – looks like a Stout. The head was remarkable in its ability to almost immediately vanish, it was tan-coloured when it was there, now it’s just a body without a head (reminds me of Blackadder S1, Ep2 “Head” in that regard). 5/10.

S: Octomore peat comes through right away… there wasn’t much chance it wouldn’t come through – Octomore being the peatiest whiskey in the world. Hints of dark fruit struggle through that bold peat… I hope the other flavours come through – I mean I love peated whiskey (Ardbeg 10yro being a personal favourite) but I really want to get the heather notes as well. 6/10.

T: Flavour is go-oood though! Octomore peat comes through, though more a whisper rather than a roar, with a heavy dark fruit and brown sugar base, a touch of floral heather and a finish of earthy hops to help dull that heady sweetness. Smoky peat lives on in the aftertaste. The balance is pretty spot on for a Scotch Ale, and it’s borderline intense in flavour… hard not to give it top marks… further sips tip it over the line on the sugar side and it begins to cloy just a touch. 9/10.

M: Mouthfeel is a bit of a mess – mid to light, rather watery body, with a thin but dense carbonation – definitely needs more body. 5/10.

D: This is one of those brews where the sum isn’t the greater than the parts – there’s one part that really works (the flavour) while the rest falls a bit flat. It’s got a bit of a boilermaker warming effect to it as well. I like the flavour, though I’m a bit of a salty peated single-malt drinker so I can imagine the peat character could be a bit much for others. Not my favourite Scotch Ale though: Skullsplitter is. 8/10.

Food match: Probs go some game meats and cheese right now. Heart attack later.

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