Cavalier Irish Spiced Red IPA

Total Score: 6.85/10 Butter1DarkFruits1Coriander1Nonicpint1

So I’m sitting here wondering WTF “Irish Spiced” means, is there a context for this? Because as far as I know you couldn’t find a culture that uses less spice in its food/drink than the Irish [Disclaimer: my ethnic background is about 50% Irish, and I’ve been to Ireland and sampled the food – that entire country is a no-spice zone]. Cavalier are a pretty decent brewer though so I have faith in their decision to f__k with my taste-buds and styles in general (although I will mention Cherry Sour which was a bit of a let-down).

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Presents with a cloudy red-brown, one might say auburn, body and a Fulvous pockmarked 1 centimetre head on top. She’s a decent looking brew I’ll give her that. 8/10.

S: Don’t know about “spiced” but this brew contains a mixture of butterscotch and Irish moss cough mixture (i.e. Menthol, Camphor, Liquorice extract and extract of Carrageenan) that I find both fascinating and sickening at the same time… I wonder if they actually used Irish moss cough mixture in this? They wouldn’t would they? Diacetyl is a big boy in this playground. 6/10.

T: Not sweet… surprising dry actually, with a bitter earthy note towards the finish. I will give it something: Cavalier Irish Spiced Red IPA is one interesting beer for the fact that it’s wayyyyyy outside conventional beer flavours. The flavour is: Butterscotch, dark fruit, herbal notes, and Menthol/Camphor finish. Tastes almost like a Butter-Menthol cough lolly… only without sweetness – which I think is lacking in this brew, otherwise it’s pretty intriguing… a beer that makes you go: Hmmmm… [beers that make you go “hmmm” yeah!]. 7/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a light(ish) carbonation… wait, burps – I’m going to upgrade that to medium carbonation. 7/10.

D: This is one circus oddity of a beer – I actually enjoyed it for its out-there-ness or as the literary theorist in me would say: Otherness. However its “otherness” is also a disadvantage in a sense as it is a beer that I would not go out of my way to try again. The biggest thing that felt missing is some sort of caramel/toffee malt sweetness. It’s quite dry, now that I think of it the style is probably closer to an Irish Red Ale – which explains the whole “Irish” part of the name… now if I was a different man I would go back and re-write my prologue, but I am lazy. 7/10.

Food match: This is a tough one… cheese platter perhaps? You tell me.

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Belhaven Twisted Thistle IPA

Total Score: 7.5/10 Flowers1 Honeycomb1 Coriander1 Nonicpint1

Next on the chopping block is this brew from East Lothian, Scotland (hey I’ve been there!) this possibly-aptly-named-but-I-wont-know-until-I’ve-tried-it Twisted Thistle IPA. True story: You can brew a beer with thistles. Sadly this isn’t a thistle brewed beer, but there you go – we both learnt something today, thanks Wikipedia! Less-than-true story: I invented a waffle-iron with a built in alarm clock so that you can have fresh cooked waffles in the morning when you wake up… actually that sounds pretty cool, PATENT PENDING!

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Clear golden amber body with a massive 1 inch bone coloured head that soon drops back to a more drinkable 1 cm, mixing my metric and imperial measurements again – suck it US readers! Err, anyway, looks OK, nothing to write home about – just an average, non-bottle conditioned Ale right here. 6/10.

S: Sort of floral and herbal on the nose, not getting any of the grapefruit the bottle purports, hints within of a caramel and toffee malt base. Not bad Belhaven, haven’t had a decent floral beer in a while [*ahem* Brakspear Oxford Gold, 5 reviews ago]. So far it’s more an APA than an IPA but we’ll see when we taste… or taste when we taste even. 7/10.

T: Hmmm, indeed, still more APA, but yes it does strike you when the flavour hits with a sugary caramel snap then whips across to a herbal/floral bitter note in the finish. The flavour is remarkably polar opposites meet – actually they don’t even meet – they more give each other a cold hard stare from across a large auditorium like the US and Russian diplomats at the UN General Assembly. Honey makes an appearance as well – tipping it’s hat to the drinker. One gets a sense of a Scottish take on an APA here. Finish is slightly bitter and manageable. 8/10.

M: Almost medium, tinge of syrupiness with a light UK pub carbonation. 8/10.

D: This was a pleasant surprise, like that time I found a crisp $50 note lying on top of refuse in a trash can, not that I’m saying I was expecting this beer to be garbage but I wasn’t realistically expecting greatness either – but there you go, I could have another couple of these – they fit a flavour niche in my fridge door with that weird floral/herbal/honey you don’t find often in beers. This turned out more like some Scottish liqueur than a beer and I like that about it. 7/10.

Food match: Something sheep related, mutton stew, with a side of mash, some mint jelly as well… now we’re on to something…

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BrewDog Punk IPA

Total Score: 7.05/10 Orange1 Pineapple1 HopFlower1 Nonicpint1

After the reasonable and surprising mid-strength Dead Pony Club I thought it fitting to give the other BrewDog in waiting (from my fridge door) Punk IPA a go next. This one claims to be a post-modern take on the IPA style, however when I think of post-modern beers I think of a hop-flavoured cider (cider isn’t really beer but isn’t it really?) [no Doc, no]. So from a can of humble IPA – the beer style that has captured hipsters and tattoo artists the world over – can Scottish BrewDog challenge the dominance of US craft brewers? Probably not, but let’s give these bastards a chance.

Poured from 330ml can into a nonic pint.

A: Hazy jonquil… ahhh, jonquil – it’s been ages since I used you to describe something… coloured body with a foamy white head that leaves spider webs around the side of the glass. 8/10.

S: The aroma isn’t very post-modern at all, in fact it’s simply modern with fragrant starburst orange and floral/pineapple hops. There is a malt base in there providing a honeyed sweetness as well, but as usual in an American IPA it is “Hail lord hop in all its majesty”. Quite a pungent bouquet that I would be quite pleased if I was BrewDog. 8/10.

T: Again I’m having trouble getting the post-modern reference [just give it up Doc] but it’s a good modern IPA. The starburst orange morphs more into bitter orange, with that hint of pineapple, and the floral aroma turns full potpourri in the flavour department. The finish is dry with a medium bitterness. Strangely there is almost no detectable sweetness in the flavour – it’s slanted towards dry/floral/bitter. Personally I like a balance between bitter/sweet in my beers so it misses a point there (if I wanted something dry I would drink a vermouth dammit!). 7/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a flat(ish) carbonation. Needs more body. 5/10.

D: So this is one of those ‘aroma promise under-delivered’ brews… I hate those guys! It’s the beer equivalent of a cock-tease. Shame because the aroma promised a classic American styled IPA, but it’s missing that crucial beer bitter/sweet balance. In any case it was still better than many other beers out there and for 5.6% ABV surprisingly sessionable, so it’s not ALL bad. 7/10.

Food match: Chinese food.

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Young Henry’s Hop Ale

Total Score: 7.6/10 Wood1 Coriander1 Earth1 Nonicpint1

Next beer on the chopping drinking block glass… “in” the drinking glass [brain: “That’s it, I’m outta here!”] is Young Henry’s Hop Ale. Now I’ve heard tell of the glory that is Young Henry and his band of merry brewers, but this is the first time I’ve had a chance to try Young Henry’s on tap at The Durham (it was a mini tap takeover night – they bought 3 beers, their Real Ale being a future review). My hype-meter was indeed set to “over”.

Poured from tap into a nonic pint.

A: Presents a hazy red/copper body with a thin pale cream coloured head. Nothing to write home about, so I didn’t (write home that is). 6/10.

S: Hmmm, not bad, not bad at all… woody overtones with a floral hop note and sweet caramel malt base. The aroma is quite full and delightful, I really really want to guzzle this Hop Ale down – the sign of a good aroma. 8/10.

T: Big woody flavours congregate with earthy and piney hops to form a committee to win over my tongue. They succeed in this task. The finish has a bitter wormwood resonance with a dry woody palate throughout. Hop Ale isn’t sweet at all, and has a tannic aftertaste. I like this interesting interplay of flavours and the balance is good. 8/10.

M: Borderline medium bodied with a lightish but dense carbonation. This beer has a real English pub feel to it (without being quite as flat as a true English Bitter). 7/10.

D: Overall Young Henry’s Hop Ale doesn’t “wow” me, though I was surprised to find out it was 6% ABV as it was quite sessionable, however it does the job of sating my beer lust well, and really that’s all you can ask of a decent brew. Did it live up to the hype reading on my hype-meter? No, but that’s the thing about hype-meters – sometimes they can be faulty, which is why you should always keep your receipt and warranty card – so you can get your hype-meter repaired when it does break down. Keep cool, stay tough, but that’s never enough, and these are the lessons in beer reviews [note: I was listening to Neon Trees whilst writing this review]. 7/10.

Food match: This one is a real cheese platter beer, too bad I don’t like cheese platters, my loss. Also roast lamb with rosemary/sage and roasted vegetables would work as well.

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Boatrocker Hop Bomb IPA

Total Score: 6.35/10 Earth1 Caramel1 Orange1 Nonicpint1

Hop Bomb, Hop Bomb!?! – wait to throw down the gauntlet Boatrocker. This better be a good fu[REDACTED]ing IPA. I mean it – you don’t name a beer “hop bomb” unless you have dumped into it a kaleidoscope of excellent hops (including my new favourite hop: Mosaic). With a name like “hop bomb” this brew is up against Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA – my third favourite beer of all time. I wish you luck Boatrocker, but I’m almost certain you won’t be up to the challenge.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Sunburst orange body with yeast particles floating around and a chalky 3mm cream head on top. Not bad, could benefit from better head retention, and the bubbles are a bit big compared to other IPAs, hopefully it’s not gassy – I hate gassy beers. 7/10.

S: Earthy hop notes upfront, followed by the classic American IPA citric/pine characters. Quite earthy, I’ve noticed this a lot in Australian craft IPAs, and I give this new earthy trend a big thumbs up. For me what is lacking compared to the Deschutes brew are those massive tropical hop notes – this “hop bomb” certainly isn’t living up to its name thus far. 7/10.

T: Wow (the bad “wow” btw) the hops really lack in the flavour department, and there is an unexpected funky note to this brew. Dry hopped? Really? How many hop cones were used in the dry hopping Boatrocker? Five? The palate starts out promising with that earthy tone and a biscuity caramel malt base, but then it descends into a hop obscurity with a piney/citric hop slight bitter finish. West Coast IPA? Yes the hops are definitely have that classic West Coast allure, however this brew sadly needs many more, and a greater variety of; hops. 6/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a nice tight packed carbonation. 7/10.

D: Biggest “meh” brew I’ve had in a while. There is little to distinguish this from any other West Coast styled Australian IPA, and much less hop flavour than you would expect given the name. I have a bottle of their Misfit to review but counting down to my 500th review it might have to sit in my fridge door till after I’ve reached that milestone. In any case if you want a good West Coast styled IPA you can’t beat… any actual West Coast IPAs – just buy American instead of Boatrocker’s Hop Bomb, you will be glad that you did. 6/10.

Food match: Beef steaks or general BBQ fare.

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Prickly Moses Chardonnay IPA

Total Score: 7.1/10 WhiteWine1 Passionfruit1 Butter1 Nonicpint1

Happy holidays people! Well it has indeed been a while since I’ve reviewed anything, I’ve been kicking it back on the beach with a beer during the festive season (and watching the cricket). But now I feel like I need to get back in the review game, so in the time honoured cooking show tradition here’s one I prepared earlier: Prickly Moses are also a winemaker (Otway Estate) as such they’ve decided to combine an IPA with Chardonnay wine (straight wine, none of this barrelling guff) and see what happens… I suspect beer but I could be wrong.

Poured from tap into a nonic pint.

A: Hazy golden body with a wispy white half cm head. It looks more like a beer than a wine, I’m intrigued to know what ratio they decided on with the added Chardonnay, and how they reached that number (I suspect it involved a lot of wasted beer and wine!). 7/10.

S: Very fruity, botrytis grape with some bold sugar notes and hints of citric hops. Quite an odd IPA this one. It really grabs you by the nose and says “Now look here mister!”. A bit too sugary, odd and lacking hops for a perfect score though. 7/10.

T: An intriguing, almost sickening mix of Chardonnay and IPA flavours. Hits upfront with vinous white grape/stonefruit Chardonnay characters and follows through to citric/passionfruit hops and a buttery finish. Chardonnay matured in oak barrels is my best guess for the bold diacetyl notes. Finish is harsh at the back of the throat and dry like your average (i.e. cheap) Aussie Chardonnay. 7/10.

M: Medium bodied with a creamy carbonation. Good points here. 8/10.

D: At first it’s a bit too much of a mixed bag. Beer and wine, do they go together? Well if you’re drinking a Belgian Strong Pale Ale like Duvel they do, but this has a few of the unwanted wine characters as well (that harsh back of the throat note didn’t go over well for me). It did however grow on me a little more and I even started to enjoy it towards the end. Sort of a shame it was a one off for Sydney Beer Week, I would buy this again on tap for something a bit different. 7/10.

Food match: It’s right in the ball park for seafood, or light Asian flavours, or light Asian seafood… you get my gist.

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Anchor IPA

Total Score: 7.1/10 HopFlower1 Caramel1 Tea1 Nonicpint1

Anchor… IPA!? When did this happen!? Why wasn’t I informed!? Anchor, San Franciscan brewers whom you know of as the owners of the Steam Beer trademark, whoops – forgot that little TM symbol, now I’m getting sued. Anyway their brews, the aforementioned Steam Beer™ (that’s better) and their Liberty Ale (not the California Lager – which is average at best) are pretty tasty. I have big hopes pinned on this IPA. Big, big (hop-related) hopes.

Poured from a 355ml (I love their teardrop design) bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Deep clear rust body with a luscious 2cm off-white head that soon dies back to a patchy lace. Tis alright looking, nothing exceptional though. 7/10.

S: Straight up with sweet caramel notes, a hint of honey as well, interesting as the hops are far fainter than most American IPAs which tend to crutch themselves on hops quite a bit (not that I’m complaining but it is refreshing to have the occasional American IPA that isn’t a hop dumping ground). The hop characters are floral and piney and provide a bitter backing to what whiffs of a sweet brew. 7/10.

T: Flavour is starts out with that caramel/honey base, follows through to floral/citric/pine hop characters… then it take a bizarre left turn with dryness that would make a Munich Helles Lager blush coyly. Finish has a slight bitter black tea tannin. I would be interested to know which hops were involved in making this IPA. It has a mixture of new and old world hop flavours going on. 7/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a dense carbonation, well done but needs more body. 8/10.

D: Straight away – not my favourite IPA (that honour belongs to Deschutes Fresh Squeezed, of which I finished my last bottle the other night *sniff*) however it is an interesting take on a style that the market is now flooded with. It isn’t Anchors best (Liberty Ale is) but I think it could grow on me if all the great IPAs like Fresh Squeezed, Founders Centennial, Hop Ottin’ and Torpedo were suddenly wiped off the planet in some freakish unexplained occurrence… huh, that doesn’t sell this beer very well does it? Oh well, I’m not here to sell it for you Anchor. 7/10.

Food match: I need a glass of water, my mouth is dry… oh yeah food match… err, seafood.

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