Bacchus Brewing Top Knot New England IIPA

Total Score: 8.6/10 PapayaMango1Peppercorns1Biscuit1Tulipglass1

Yikes! The IIPA version of JAF! Gadzooks! [I felt that one of my reviews needed an anachronistic exclamation… finally Gadzooks, you have made it into one of my reviews]. Bacchus have bought home the bacon (i.e. by brewing JAF, a New England style IPA), now it’s time to fry it in the pan (i.e. go up against Australia’s most infamous – that is: more than famous* – Pirate Life IIPA). Who will win out of the West Coast/East Coast battle of IIPA styles? Spoiler alert: East Coast, always.

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Presents with a cloudy Gamboge body and a foamy 1 centimetre off-white head that leaves a couple splotches of lace on the side of the glass. Pretty decent head for an 8.8% ABV brew. 8/10.

S: Prominent papaya/Jackfruit tropical nose, this is going to be one BIG fucken brew – there’s no other way to sugar coat it… but hell am I ready to punch my ticket on this ride. If I’m being objective though this smells like a complete sugar-bomb of a brew, whether it is or not, well we’ll soon find out. 9/10.

T: Balance between sweet/bitter is spot on. Papaya/Jackfruit hops, touch of pepper spice, biscuit/dry cracker malt base, finish is, as typical for the style, restrained in its bitterness. As a comparison to JAF and Mini Fruits, the hop complexity is a bit thinner here – there was a bit more happening in Bacchus’s other New England brews… not too disappointed though, the flavour is still banging in this brew. Compared to Pirate Life IIPA, it’s not as dissimilar as you might expect, though Pirate Life’s brew (which I coincidentally drank last night) is a bit more “in yo grill”. 8/10.

M: Medium to heavy, lush with hop oils and proteins n’ stuff, with a creamy dense carbonation… mmm, creamy. Best body I’ve experienced on an Aussie IIPA yet. 10/10.

D: Ross (Bacchus head brewer) did his homework on this style – he’s slam dunked every single New England style beer he’s made. Interestingly each had strong points: JAF had flavour, bags of it, like money it rained on my tongue. Mini Fruits had drinkability – it went down easy… a little TOO easy. Top Knot has an unrivalled mouthfeel (it’s like a Founders brew here), cheers Ross! 9/10.

Food match: Malaysian, and make it spicy.

*Three Amigos reference. If you’re too young to have seen this film my advice is: Netflix it immediately. IMMEDIATELY.

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Mornington Peninsula The Continuous Daryl Imperial IPA

Total Score: 7.55/10 Orange1HopFlower1Butter1Nonicpint1

Continuing my conquest of Mornington Peninsula one beer at a time my next mêlée is The Continuous Daryl Imperial IPA, which has a picture representing the evolution of man on the can. Much like the Cro-Magnon man depicted on the can I will tinker with this beer (on my tongue) and craft tools – in the shape of a review (aka the tool you may use pro gratis to decide if you want to drink this Ale) and hopefully come to a conclusion (not unlike Cro-Magnon man)… which may or may not involve smashing things, or rock paintings… I haven’t decided yet.

Poured from a 330ml can into a nonic pint.

A: One of the cloudiest IIPAs I’ve ever seen with a caramel-tinged amber body and a 1 centimetre off-white cappuccino foam head that leaves some dense packed lace on the side of the glass. It’s impressively ominous and it’s not even a Russian Imperial Stout – that’s the most remarkable thing. 8/10.

S: Hops aplenty with that citrus/piney aroma you get from a good west coast IPA. Sharp tangs of orange rind and unripe mandarin round out a decidedly bold hop aroma with little in the way of malts detected, but they’ll be in there to balance out the hops or else it wouldn’t be much of a beer now would it? [rhetorical question in case it wasn’t obvious]. 8/10.

T: Hop flavour has dulled quite a bit here and I suspect that this has been sitting in the fridge a bit too long as I’ve experienced these flavours before in past-their-prime IPAs from the States. Flavours of: Caramel, butterscotch mix with orange rind and resiny pine characters – tis a west coast IIPA and unashamed of it! Hop and malt balance is slightly on the sweet side with a nice medium hop bitterness in the finish. 7/10.

M: Mid to heavy bodied with plenty of hop oils and a thin but dense carbonation. 8/10.

D: Wish I had gotten to buying this sooner as it tastes like a real no-nonsense west coast Imperial IPA – and fresh this would have been brilliant. Damn & blast my winter obsession with Imperial Stouts when an IPA like this has been sitting on a shelf somewhere. Here’s hoping Mornington put the kettle on for this brew again (the wort kettle that is!). As far as Imperial IPAs go this is one that I imagine in its prime could wrestle on equal terms with that mighty Aussie IIPA stalwart: Pirate Life IIPA – which is reason enough to brew this again. 8/10.

Food match: SE Asia again for a cuisine match and IPAs + Bún thịt nướng = Nirvana.

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Exit #008 Double Session XXXPA

Total Score: 7.95/10 HopFlower1Grapefruit1Flowers1Tulipglass1

Ahoy me mateys! Here’s yet another awesome Imperial IPA ready to walk the plank straight into my gullet – it’s a limited release from Exit Brewing called #008 Double Session XXXPA (XXXPA, whatever the flip that means… Extra extra extra Pale Ale?!). Anyway, I’ve got to stop questioning why brewers come up with odd names and acronyms and spend more time drinking 🙂 Note: This review comes from my notes when I tried it at The Durham last year – it won at GABS so we already know it’s going to be good – I’ve liked every GABS winner I’ve tried so far so no surprises there.

Poured from tap into a Schooner.

A: Presents with a tastylicious cloudy deep caramel brown body and a thin cream-coloured head. definitely a beer you can’t wait to tuck into (sorry international readers for my Aussie colloquialisms – which is ironically a tough word for us Australians to pronounce: “colloquialisms”). 9/10.

S: Nice: Big piney/citrus and floral hops with a malt base that lies almost undetected under the weight of those hops but really who cares? If I could pick one quibble that holds it back from DWG (DirtWolf Greatness – because I compare every IIPA to DirtWolf now) it would be that it could use a more interesting hop combination. 8/10.

T: Wow, this is like an IPA that has had the Eisbock treatment – everything is concentrated to 11. Massive piney/citrus and floral hops, plenty for caramel malt to balance it out and earthy notes towards the end (typical Aussie craft beer with earthy notes towards the end). The wow part of this beer though is how restrained the bitterness is in the finish. It’s all terribly well balanced, I hate you Exit. Again the only thing to detract is the somewhat now tiresome piney/citric/floral hop flavours. 8/10.

M: Medium bodied, perhaps a touch thin for 9%, with a light carbonation. 7/10.

D: This is a big ABV (9%) IPA that I could drink all night without getting big beer fatigue (the other ‘BBF’). I’m not surprised it won at GABS, which I still haven’t been to yet [insert my own chagrin here]. I want another but I have to drive… *sadface* Other than that this brew is a safe pair of hands, albeit a bit too safe on the hop flavour profile, however I am getting flavour fatigue from years of piney/citric hops – so be that as it may. 8/10.

Food match: Can’t go wrong with Kan Tong… or any bold Asian flavours.

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Victory Hop Ranch Imperial IPA

Total Score: 9.55/10 Bubblegum1Coriander1PapayaMango1Tulipglass1

This is a 9% ABV behemoth from those glorious bastards Victory, you know those guys that brewed Doc’s most favourite Imperial India Pale Ale of all time DirtWolf?* Yeah – those f&#ken legends – I’ve got my hands on Hop Ranch, which will most likely be awesome so let’s dispense with all this waffle and dive in… NOW!

Poured from a 355ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Hazed, almost murky, pale Tangelo body with a head that consists of splotchy white lace bits floating on the surface – not surprising as most beers at this percentage present with little to no head. 7/10.

S: Bold floral/papaya/spicy hops hit the nose and proceed to pummel your senses with hoppy goodness – exactly what you want in a BIG ‘Merican IIPA. Hints of a light caramel malt base struggle to overcome these mighty hops but who bloody cares about the malt at this point. I am loving these f@%ken hops man! Hint of bubblegum sweetness comes in after a couple more whiffs – DAMN Victory, this is one intoxicating brew! 10/10.

T: Similar to DirtWolf in being a touch on the sweeter side with hop bitterness juuuust managing to help balance everything. Those flavours of bubblegum also come out more here. Overall flavours include: Floral/papaya/spicy/bubblegum hops, malt is undetectable with all these hops but you know it’s in there too. How about those hops though – not too bitter, full of flavour (multiple and well-defined) – this is everything you want in a BIG IIPA. In fact it makes me want to shout “BIGIIPA!” as embarrassingly as possible to the next person I cross paths with. 10/10.

M: Medium to heavy bodied with a hop resin oiliness and light but dense carbonation – spot on body for this brew. 9/10.

D: Wow! Just: Wow. Victory once again stamp their IPA skills all over my tongue in the boldest way possible, but they also made this brew drinkable for 9% ABV (though I imagine palate fatigue would be a problem after 3 of these). Who cares though – I would rather have 3 of these for the night than 6 x 4.5% ABV [random brand] Pale Ales, so there’s a good comparison for you. 9/10.

Food match: A nice Cherrywood smoked pork shoulder with a side of salad, mmm.

*Granted I’ve only tried probably 1% of the awesome Imperial IPAs out there because of US brewers who refuse to distribute outside of their state dammit!

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Left Coast Hop Juice

Total Score: 5.65/10 Malt1 Butter1 Coriander1 Tulipglass1

From cherries to hops, Belgium to America I go traipsing the beer fantastic to my next review Left Coast Hop Juice. I haven’t tried any Left Coast beers yet, so as is my time honoured tradition with American brewers I go straight for their hoppiest brew, the beer-world version of the jugular vein, and when you name your beer “Hop Juice” you had better bring the hops Left Coast. That said I am confident that a west coast brewer wouldn’t dilly-dally in naming their beer after the delightful flower that is the hop. I’m hoping my tastebuds are up to the challenge [note to self: they are*].

Poured from a 355ml bottle into a Duvel Tulip.

A: Presents a cloudy orange with a thin white lace instead of a head. Looks like a glass of OJ, and we all know that IPAs that look like OJ are the hoppiest brews around, this is promising. 8/10.

S: A tad boring here with a big biscuit malt base that dominates far too much for a beer that should be hoptacular. There are hints of grapefruit/piney hop notes in the background but they really should be trashing my nose with hop goodness right now. 6/10.

T: Big malty taste which soon leads to the hops that one would expect. The hops have an odd herbal/vegetal character to them… not sure what they used here. Finish is a medium bitterness, and distracted by a huge buttery Diacetyl character which would rule this beer out of any competition. Aftertaste is dirty and cloying sweet with a toasty note. 5/10.

M: Medium bodied with a light carbonation, and it cloys like a MOFO. 6/10.

D: Verdict: Hop Juice really needs more hops in it, and a larger variety of hops for it to come close to challenging the established champions: Deschutes, Founders and Sierra Nevada. To boot the overall flavours are distracting and for the first time ever I had to use the tongue scraper on the back of my toothbrush to de-cloy my tongue. I am really not a fan of this beer at all, and also – false advertising Left Coast, you bastards! [that was my Kyle Broflovski impression BTW]. 6/10.

Food match: Some sharp cheeses might help de-cloy your tongue, but you’ll also likely end up with acid reflux… decisions, decisions.

*2nd note to self: don’t forget to pick up milk, bread, mustard and pickles – remember that pie you were going to bake? Good.

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Evil Twin Yang

Total Score: 6.9/10 Caramel1 Earth1 Orange1 Tulipglass1

If you want a beer that conjures up thoughts of Satan starting a brewery to try and imbibe mortals to death (with tasty beers) for his ever-growing army of the undead, nothing beats Evil Twin… or Heretic… err, in any case Evil Twin does well to invoke images of hangovers the day after with brews that generally sit above double digits ABV and Yang is no exception at 10%. An IIPA that promises a skull-crushing Black & Tan with the sister Yin Imperial Stout, a combination “I surely would if I could”.

Poured from a 355ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: You know I love it when yeast flocculates in my glass and Yang brings it to the table (literally) with a classic amber yeasty body and thin but-we-expected-that white lace ring. 8/10.

S: More on the funky/malty side than other Imperial IPAs. The aroma is: sourdough, black tea, dry malt and an earthy note. Not as pleasant as it sounds, I do enjoy the above flavours but for some reason as an aroma it is a touch discordant. 6/10.

T: The palate shifts across towards a sharp resin and alcohol note, yes it is 10% ABV but after the delightfully even 8.8% 8 Wired Super Conductor I feel a tad deceived here. Flavour is: Caramel malt, dry crackers, earthy hops, hints of black tea and a bitter orange aftertaste accentuating that wine spirit character. Another sip helps it come through considerably better given my initial impression… actually this isn’t bad, not great but still at 10% ABV… yeah, I could go another. 8/10.

M: Medium bodied with a light carbonation, could be heavier (and fizzier). 5/10.

D: Yeah, I change my mind, this beer is a monster – overly bitter and sharp with alcohol in the aftertaste… there’s a white wine (almost Grappa) spirit flavour riding my tongue like the devil, I’m already reaching for the Ibuprofen and Codeine tablets with a glass of water. If it wasn’t so sharply alcoholic this would be an excellent brew, regrettably it’s too much for me… and I don’t say that often. 6/10.

Food match: Ibuprofen and Codeine tablets with a glass of water… I’m already getting a hangover dammit.

NB: I feel I should mention this to my readers (because I love you all dearly) this is my 499th review and I am saving a big one for #500 but I will be strangely absent for the next 14 days… don’t worry I will be back to coddle you with excellent reviews – be patient… and burn a candle for me dear reader.

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Evil Twin Molotov Cocktail

Total Score: 8.15/10 Grapefruit1 HopFlower1 Orange1 Tulipglass1

Evil Twin is Denmark’s answer to “Can Denmark make awesome beers or what?”, and I’m hitting the hardest ABV of their brews that is readily available (they did produce a limited release 17.2% American Double Imperial Stout called “Bozo Beer” however good luck getting one in Australia): Molotov Cocktail. The name in itself conjures up thoughts of my mouth exploding with delight, as well as my nipples*.

Poured from a 355ml bottle into a Duvel Tulip.

A: Presents an orange body with a crazy amount of yeast particles floating around and a thin white lacing for a head. Doc likes yeast particles, so extra points there. 9/10.

S: Big fruity and floral hops smash my olfactory senses, also noted is a sweet caramel malt base and grapefruit lingering in the background. Smells like an absolute hop fuelled fantasy. 9/10.

T: Very much an amped up version of Bridgeport’s Hop Czar, which I noted as having characters of: Grapefruit, pine resin, and bitter orange hops – upfront, at the back and generally all over the place, these hops are tap-dancing on my tongue. There is also a cloying syrupy sweetness as well, like a tanker full of treacle. I find this a bit too intense, then I look at the label and remind myself that it is 13% ABV, and it’s not that intense for alcohol this high. At least the balance of sweetness to bitterness is even-handed. 8/10.

M: Medium bodied, with a carbonation that is hard to place due to the oiliness of the mouthfeel, it’s not distracting nonetheless. 7/10.

D: Well Evil Twin really lobbed a live grenade onto my tongue with this brew. It made me stand to ask the question “Am I really enjoying this or is it too much?”, then I would take another sip and the answer would invariably be my inner hop lover nodding “Yes to both!” frantically. A beer with caveats then. Whilst it doesn’t destroy my tongue with bitterness like Sixpoint’s Resin, and it doesn’t turn me into a diabetic like Gulden Draak, it comes quite close to doing both. 8/10.

Food match: Sharp cheese platter… or anything with bold flavours really, your tongue will be numb before you finish the glass anyhow.

*Did anyone get my obscure Monty Python “Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook” reference?

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