Prancing Pony Black Ale

Total Score: 6.45/10 Coffee1Smoke1Earth1Nonicpint1

Mt. Barker? I have relos from near there, small town too… Anyway their Amber came highly recommended from Plonk, though they only had the one free taster bottle – so Black Ale it is – if Prancing Pony can’t brew a good Stout, especially as a South Australian brewer (the home state for Australian Stouts – don’t ask why, just accept what I say as gospel) then what are they good for apart from prancing… with ponies… doesn’t sound like the worst idea ever… cleaning the old nonic pint now.

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Presents a cloudy deep brown, almost cola coloured body with a MASSIVE 1.5 inch tan head – guess I shouldn’t have agitated it before the pour… this head is German beer proportions… so yeah *checks watch* should be drinkable without a Belgian dip soon… actually it’s dropped down to a nice tight 1 cm head now. 8/10.

S: Dark fruits, unroasted coffee cherry and a hint of tobacco leaf round out a well-balanced “black ale” aroma. Hints of a sweet malt driven experience throughout. Overall aroma could use a bit more intensity (I suspect some wateriness in the texture) but it is otherwise on solid ground. 7/10.

T: Roasted coffee, chicory, a touch of smoke, lingering dark fruit notes and an earthy tobacco leaf hop note to finish. After taste is a touch on the bitter side for a Stout. Flavour is mid-range in the Stout/Old Ale profile. Lacking in intensity here, again, but it is an otherwise tasty Stout. An addition of oats would probably raise this to another level, however it certainly doesn’t disappoint either. A run of the mill Aussie craft Stout then. 7/10.

M: Medium bodied, slight watery consistency, with a near flat carbonation. Nothing to write home about [which is why I’m writing to you about it – I’m saving you the time of thinking of writing home about it you see? Yes…]. 5/10.

D: I’ve had worse Stouts for sure… I’ve had numerous better too… it’s right there in that meaty part of the Stout bell-curve… hard to get that excited about a Stout like this after so many good Stouts before it – Panhead kills this… even 4 Pines Dry Stout is around this level – this has a touch more flavour happening. What 4 Pines dominates this brew on is price: $9.99 for a 500ml bottle? GTFOH! This is way overpriced for what you get [I think I’ve upset the ponies now, but screw them]. 5/10.

Food match: Shepherd’s pie or kangaroo steaks, braised in some sort of wine jus, with stuff on the side.

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Little Creatures Return Of The Dread

Total Score: 7.1/10 Chocolate1 Vanilla1 Smoke1 Nonicpint1

Hasn’t it been a while since Little Creatures brought out something new? They must have a sore bum from resting on their laurels all that time. Anyway it’s here. It has happened. Little Creatures have brought out something new. They’ve blown the cobwebs off their fermenters and have produced a Domestic Extra Stout, aka We Don’t Know What To Call This Beer. Needless to say I have been a perpetrator of hyperbole when it comes to reviewing Little Creatures beers, BUT that is only because they introduced my young growing palate to American Pale Ales. Since then I’ve moved on to IPAs, Quads & Eisbocks and the gloves are off now Little Creatures.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Black body; the obsidian variety, “like my heart” as one might say if they were an ivory dealer named Blackheart with a 1cm caramel brown cappuccino foam head that reduces to a micro-thin film. It wins points for being oppressively dark. 9/10.

S: On the dark fruit side of Stouts with (you guessed it) heady notes of prune and plum, dark cherry, ripe unroasted coffee bean and vanilla. Not bad at all, a hint of some floral lavender notes come through as well after a second sniff. 7/10.

T: Flavour does a bit of a 180 on your tongue… well maybe not a 180, more like a 90, with milk chocolate and cacao nibs, the vanilla noted above and a smoky roasted note. It’s a bit bland given the 7.2% ABV, which is where I believe most people will be let down as Little Creatures tend to extract a lot of flavour from their 5.2% Pale Ale and of course Rogers. 7/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a thin but dense carbonation. 7/10.

D: Well there you go – a review from me about a Little Creatures beer that isn’t spilling over with superlative remarks… bet you never thought you would live to see the day. Well you have now – frame this review on the wall because this Little Creatures brew is a big steaming pile of average! Well if you call a 7/10 average, which appears to be my average score, what can I say – I’m generous and I possibly need to reassess my entire scoring system… another chore for another day. Overall I would say that Little Creatures haven’t exactly missed the mark with this Domestic Extra Stout, they’ve simply put up a beer that isn’t pushing any boundaries or redefining styles, which you would imagine Little Creatures are perfectly capable of doing that now that they have a massive marque… I guess I’m disappointed with their seeming acceptance of mediocrity. 7/10.

Food match: Some sort of rich venison stew methinks.

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Guinness Foreign Extra Stout

Total Score: 6.9/10 Earth1 Barley1 Coffee1 Nonicpint1

Time for me to review the best beer to ever come out of Nigeria “Wait… what?!” I hear you say: “I thought that Guinness was an Irish beer?!” You’re right – but this is Guinness Foreign Extra Stout – a beer that is synonymous with and brewed in Nigeria. As far as I can tell (and I’m happy to be corrected by anyone on this fact) this is the best beer brewed in Nigeria. “Why?” I’ll tell you why – Export Stouts are highly concentrated versions of the Stouts we know and love, just as India Pale Ales are highly concentrated versions of Pale Ales, Export Stouts take the good stuff of Stouts and amp the volume up to a hearty 12.

Poured from an odd-sized 325ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Deeper and darker ruby/cola colour body than Guinness this brew presents, for all intents and purposes, as an opaque black with a centimetre of tan head that disintegrates leaving a chalky lace covering. Looks intense. Smells intense (and my nose is 3 meters away from the glass). 7/10.

S: Medicinal bitter/menthol/toffee/cola syrup. This is nothing I expected from Guinness – one of the safest pair of hands in the brewing industry… this is nuts. Huge boozy dark rum note for a 7.5% ABV brew… I’m just hoping that isn’t going to trash my tongue with fusels – I was planning on enjoying another brew after this. 7/10.

T: Flavour is a bit nuts too… there’s all sorts of craziness going on: Roasted barley, tobacco, 85% chocolate, cheap dark rum (yep was hoping I wouldn’t taste that – I detest cheap dark rum) earthy and sour notes as well. This is a handful of a Stout on first sip, but then it calms down a little bit. Finish is light roasted coffee grind bitterness with a touch of dryness. That tobacco really comes through with a toasty/earthy note – very cigar-like. 7/10.

M: Mid to light bodied, a touch watery – but then again Guinness and water go together like cats and salami – with an almost flat carbonation. 6/10.

D: There’s some interesting aspects of this brew that work together but somehow became dissonant at the same time, it’s really hard to describe, I like this but at the same time I hate it… overall this is not the best Export Stout I’ve had – I would go with Coopers Best Extra or Southwark Old Stout, both from my land of birth: South Australia… huh, I just realised why I love Stouts so much – it’s in my blood. 7/10.

Food match: Cigars are the obvious choice, less obvious: Heavy smoked cured ham with Swiss and goat cheese on crusty bread.

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Sinha Stout

Total Score: 5.95/10 DarkFruits1 Smoke1 Coffee1 Tulipglass1

Recommended to me by a colleague as “A pretty good Stout… and from Sri Lanka” – I had to give it a go, I don’t think I’ve even looked in the general direction of Sri Lanka for anything beer related, so on my beer world tour country #34 is (of course I just told you, put away those sticks – there’s no need for a drumroll): Sri Lanka!

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Pours really excitable for an 8.8% ABV Stout (I have a 1 inch tan head going on here) with a deep brown, almost black, body and some large chunks of yeast sitting at the bottom of my glass… just noticed the best before date is July 2014, oh 😦 5/10.

S: Bit of the old burnt barley, engine oil, roast coffee and dark chocolate aromas happening right now, kinda reminds me of my very first review those many moons ago (you remember Sheaf Stout right?). 6/10.

T: Interesting flavour, an almost sickly sweet prune character (upfront and all over) with some smoke, roasted coffee notes, and indeed as the label proclaims a: “mocha liquor like character”. I’ve underlined the “liquor” part because Sinha are obviously proud of the fact that their Stout has this fusel alcohol note. The aftertaste is quite proportionally metallic as well. 6/10.

M: Medium bodied with a medium, borderline fizzy-as-hell carbonation. 6/10.

D: This brew shies away from greatness due to the odd fusel and almost sickly sweet prune characters which make it more of an oddity than an enjoyable experience, perhaps it’s my own subjective views but Sinha Stout doesn’t do it for me quite nearly as much as Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout did. I actually found this a bit of a chore to finish, and drinking beer should never become a chore. 6/10.

Food match: I imagine a big Sri Lankan curry would sort this Stout out sharpish.

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