Bentspoke Cluster 8 IIPA

Total Score: 7.6/10 HopFlower1Peach1PapayaMango1Tulipglass1

Bentspoke Cluster 8 IIPA – this is going to be good, hella-moreish-awesome IIPA good. Apparently Bentspoke have pushed this already 8.8% ABV IIPA into IIIIIIPA territory [translation: each “I” in IIPA can be interpreted as an ABV level, with their Cluster 18 weighing in at a whopping 18% ABV – those are some cojones right there cabrón!]. Back to Cluster 8, I’ve been looking forward to this since seeing recent social-media posts of the drifter series cans of this, plus Red Nut has been the beer of my winter 2018 – I must have consumed a dozen cans of that already, and I keep coming back to it, so tasty! The hop bill in Cluster 8 also reads as my Top 6 hops of all-time: Mosaic, Citra, Galaxy, Centennial, Simcoe and Amarillo [hell yes!].

Poured from a 375ml with one of those “the-entire-lid-lifts-off” tops that rock, into a Duvel tulip.

A: Cloudy amber body with a beige sea-foam head that slowly drops back leaving some tasty lace-work inside the glass. There’s something rustic about the look of this brew that appeals to the inner hop farmer in me – this is a real beer, it ain’t pretty, but it’ll do the job (well I suspect). 7/10.

S: Pure hop-gumbo! Piney/herbal/floral hops mingle with juicy fruit, spicy notes, hints of stone-fruit and biscuit malt base in the background. A delectable hop fragrance like this doesn’t come along often, this is sublime, I don’t know whether to drink this or keep it in a snuff-box to sniff at whenever I feel like a pick-me-up, brilliant stuff! 10/10.

T: Flavour is as expected, it’s a bit too muddled, there’s good stuff going on but it’s lacking the finesse of a KAIJU! or a Modus IIPA: Piney/herbal/juicy fruit from the start, mid-palate adds a syrupy stone-fruit and fructose dilemma – it’s a bit on the sweeter side for a typical (West Coast) IIPA, finishes with a potpourri note that unsettles. It’s not terrible, just discombobulated. After-taste is a mix of mango and floral character, sort of like a tropical punch. Yep, unsettling. 7/10.

M: Mid to heavy and syrupy AF – which doesn’t help with the sweetness in the flavour profile – and a dense almost-flat carbonation. Hop syrup here. 7/10.

D: What a roller-coaster. I was so expecting this to be brilliant with that aroma, but it fell apart in the flavour department. Based on the texture of this beer I suspect Bentspoke may have thought the keg recipe would translate directly to the can… I can’t think of any other reason why this didn’t work. 7/10.

Food match: Tropical fruit salad and potpourri of course!


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.


Knee Deep Lupulin River Imperial India Pale Ale

Total Score: 8.95/10 PapayaMango1HopFlower1Orange1Tulipglass1

That’s riiight, Lupulin River… I said I was going to review it after Breaking Bud… guess I got side-tracked by one of the best IPAs I’ve had in recent history: Revision Sparkle Muffin. My deepest apologies dear reader. Well I’m here to make amends with this: Lupulin River IIPA in all its glory. As mentioned in my Breaking Bud review I have actually had this beer before, since reaching 1,000 reviews I’ve come down with a drinking disorder which I’m calling ‘Notwantingtowastemytimeonshitbeeritis’ (yes, it’s a bit of a mouthful). Essentially what it means is I’ll probably be trying out new beers and do what Trump might deem as “extreme vetting” of said beers before reviewing them (separating the wheat from the chaff as it were). From here on out you’ll see higher scoring brews… so yay it is then.

Poured from a 355ml can into a Duvel tulip.

A: Clear golden-amber body with a delightful off-white head that crumbles down to a half centimetre covering and leaves blobs of lace on the side of the glass. It’s not the most picturesque IIPA I’ve ever seen, but it is making me hanker for a good old sip, or two, or three, look I’m just going to say it: I want this beer. Now. 8/10.

S: Tropical nose upfront and tap-dancing all over my olfactory senses. Mango primarily with a bit of papaya and lychee hints. Following the hops are more hops – slightly citrus based (think grapefruit but less intense), an earthy tone, and a caramel/cracker malt base lingering in the background like a fan waiting to get an autograph at a rock concert – I see you there, malt. 8/10.

T: The secret I found with this beer last time I had it: let it warm up longer than you normally would for an IPA – it’s a touch muted at first for an IIPA, but when it’s up to temperature it really comes alive. Flavours are as noted above, only difference is that grapefruit comes across more as a fresh orange note in the flavour. The malt/hop balance is quite precise, the finish is a light to medium bitterness and it’s really really well crafted, just go out and get it already! 9/10.

M: Medium bodied and smooth with a light/dense carbonation and enough sticky hop resin to keep a bearded hipster happy for days. 9/10.

D: Wow, such a well-balanced beer, it’s no surprise this won a silver at GABF – such a smooth rider for an IIPA, that 8% ABV really doesn’t come across at all, in fact when I first tried it I thought it was a 6% IPA! I can only imagine how nice a fresh can of this would be, this is a rip-snorter brew from Knee Deep. 10/10.

Food match: Anything SE Asian and curry related – Laksa would be my pick here.


Modus Operandi Future Factory IIPA

Total Score: 7.9/10 Pineapple1PapayaMango1HopFlower1Tulipglass1

Bloody Modus! Every time I think the coast is clear on their limited release brews they crack out another brilliant corker, it wouldn’t be so bad if they were adding to their core range but this stuff is produced in such limited batches and so sparsely distro’d that if you don’t get your hands on it this very instant, I mean like right NOW! Then poof it’s gone. What hope does a punter like me have? I have to buy it the very instant I see it, and this 8.5% ABV behemoth is $16 a 500ml can! Really Modus you are starting to take the piss with this constant release cycle of brilliant and very limited beers that I know I’ll love and have to buy right away you magnificent bastards. [PS: It’s a love/hate relationship with Modus, my tastebuds love them but my wallet hates them].

Poured from a 500ml can into a Duvel tulip.

A: NEIPA alert confirmed, this is a code NEIPA (New England IPA), which consists of an amber-y coloured murky AF body with a cappuccino foam white head that sticks around for a while and leaves some delicious scroll-work lace on the side of the glass. I do have a soft spot for the look of a NEIPA, I love cloudy beers. 8/10.

S: Aroma is like a “best of” album for Modus’s IIPAs with a hashy/resin green hop character mingling amongst pineapple, mango and papaya, with a dash of Sauvignon Blanc grape. It’s not only bordering on the sweet side of aromas, it’s invaded the sweetness like a German blitzkrieg. From here I cant see how it’s not going to be cloying in the flavour department. 8/10.

T: Yep, it’s sweet, it’s basically an alcoholic Golden Circle tropical fruit flavoured popper (juice box)… which if you’re familiar with the NEIPA style is pretty standard. Flavours are pineapple, mango, papaya, hint of green hops, with a slight peppery note towards the finish and a sugar syrup centre. Not as cloyingly sweet as expected – it’s around the same level of sweetness as a popper. Finish has a mild green hop bitterness. The balance is pretty decent. 8/10.

M: Mouthfeel is a bit thin for 8.5% ABV – medium bodied with a thin but dense carbonation. Definitely could use a bit of work here. 7/10.

D: You’ll enjoy this based purely on if you actually like tropical fruit juice, because that basically is what you’re getting with Modus Operandi Future Factory IIPA… in a 3.6 standard drink form factor. I didn’t mind it, personally I like tropical flavours and have always been keen on punch, but your mileage may vary. 8/10.

Food match: It’s a tired cliché of mine to say “green papaya salad” but it works here.


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.


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.


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.