Kona Brewing Longboard Island Lager

Total Score: 6.95/10 Malt1Honeycomb1Flowers1Stein1

Last in the Kona beers kindly gifted to me by a rep for the purpose of reviewing is: Kona Brewing Longboard Island Lager. Look, I left the Lager till last because let’s face it – I’m not the biggest fan of Lagers in general… unless they have the word “Bock” in them, and they’re really more like Ales anyway. That said – I do know a good Lager when I taste one, and I can appreciate Lagers from long dry Munich Helles to sharply crisp Japanese Lagers, so I’m going to give Kona as fair a chance as I do any brewer and the things I may praise/slam it for are no different to the things I praise/slam in any brew (and my slamming tends to fall into the category of: flavourless or muted). Anyway, cheers to that Kiwi Kona rep – she’s a lovely lass.

Poured from a 355ml bottle into a stein.

A: Crazy carbonation and yeast particles floating around suggesting this may have undergone a few fermentations in the bottle. Apart from that it presents with a pleasing pale straw/golden body and a fluffy white 1 centimetre head that slowly decays to a thin blanket. 6/10.

S: Crisp malts mingle with a honeyed scent and light floral hops, rather dry aroma overall and a touch muted… though as far as American Pale Lagers go this isn’t out of the realm of the ordinary. 6/10.

T: Flavour is light right from the beginning, and it never really leaps out at you, however this isn’t the sort of beer you would expect to leap out at you – it’s a “cold-brew-by-the-beach” type of Lager and when I review these I tend to ask “does it have any offensive or off flavours?”. In the case of this Kona the answer is: No. Profile is: Malty, honey and floral. Finish: Long and dry. Aftertaste: Malty. 7/10.

M: Decent body for a 4.6% ABV brew: Almost medium, with a reasonably creamy carbonation, works well with this style – though it can be a touch cloying for those who like crisper bodies. 7/10.

D: Didn’t mind this one at all from Kona Brewing. They’re no Stone Brewing (so get that notion out of your head), they don’t do big beers, but they do easy brews that go down without being close to mind-blowing, and there’s a niche for that (a pretty damn big niche actually!). I like the fact that they’ve positioned themselves in the Hawaii (i.e. tropical island) beer market as there isn’t a huge deal of brews out there that are both a) great on a hot day, and b) not absolutely bland, so kudos Kona for making something A-OK, mahalo! 8/10.

Food match: I’ve said luau before, so… fish, chips and salad peeps.

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Six String Ramstein Märzen

Total Score: 4.9/10 RedApple1Barley1GreenApple1Stein1

Don’t mind a good Märzen at all, however it needs to have one important thing for it to qualify as a good Märzen for me and that thing is: Body. Lots of it. With a nice creamy carbonation. Apart from that the flavour can go anywhere it likes – if it ain’t got that body then I ain’t liking it. Six String are a bit of a hit n’ miss brewer for me – their Dark Red IPA is OK, I mean it’s not going to compete with the Modus/Kaiju/Prancing Pony Gods for that ever so shiny Aussie Red IPA of my heart crown, but it’s not shite by any stretch of the imagination. Now their Hefeweizen – that was below-average-borderline-shit… which as a German style has me worried about Ramstein… will it be a disaster? [you can’t see but my fingers are crossed]

Poured from a 500ml can into a stein… a ram-stein perhaps?

A: Hazed amber body with a billowy off-white 2 centimetre head that slowly drops back the pulling lace down with it. The head vanished rather fast and with practically no lace to speak of this doesn’t look great for a Märzen… also the bubbles in the head are big and, in my experience, suggest a lack of body. 5/10.

S: Bit of a one-note cider apple aroma… not much else to it, where’s the: bread, grain, cake and grassy hop character that is often found in Märzens? Apart from the oft-found cider apples I’m getting nothing… this isn’t looking… err, smelling good for Six String. 5/10.

T: Cider apples, yes we expected that, thin body (we’ll get to that), grain spirit mid palate and a grainy dry finish… this beer is more flaccid than a eunuch at a… well: Anywhere really. Not much else to add here… back to the drawing board with this one Six String. 5/10.

M: Mid to light bodied, no creamy carbonation – over gassed for the style. Disappointing. 4/10.

D: Six String really drop the ball on their German styles, but I can’t hold it against them – German beers are deceptively hard to brew. I’ve come to realise this over the past nearly 20 years of drinking them. When I first tried a Löwenbräu Original I got this deflated sense of “really, was that it?”. It’s soft bodied with simple Helles Lager flavours so I didn’t understand until after a hundred-odd Lagers (with terrible watery bodies and gassy carbonation) later. Then I had an epiphany: Damn! It’s actually hard to brew a Lager as good as Löwenbräu: Ze Germans, zey know what zey’re doing ja? Ja indeed my sausage-imbibing brethren. 5/10.

Food match: Speaking of sausage – I could go a knackwurst right now. Mit senf!

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Sample Lager

Total Score: 6.25/10 Peach1Barley1CutGrass1Stein1

Another free sample of a Sample Brew, this one a Sample Lager, sample, sample, sample… now that is a lot of samples in one sentence. So I’m not really looking forward to this as their Sample ¾ IPA was watery, ergo: Shit. However it is a free sample, and I do review beers, so what the hell, let’s do this! The label says it has Enigma hops – which apparently give this beer “flavours and aromas from raspberries to Pinot Gris, delivering a truly palatable finish… I’ll believe it when I taste it, if it’s anything like the ¾ IPA I’m going to need a tastescope (a device not yet invented which amplifies taste much like a microscope amplifies a view) to taste this brew.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a stein.

A: Slightly hazed golden body with a generous three centimetre white head that slowly dials itself back. Looks rather much like a Lager in all regards, I like that they don’t use preservatives in their beers – that’s one good thing about Sample Brew at least. 7/10.

S: I’m getting a prominent peach aroma from this, notes of grain and light malt syrup as well as an overall sense of Lager dryness… not bad, a touch on the muted side and lacking complexity, but nowhere near as bad as the ¾ IPA so far. 7/10.

T: Paradoxically heavier and less watery than the ¾, but we’ll get to that next… the peach is there with hints of grain, cut grass, and dry crackers. Finishes reasonably dry with next to no bitterness – yep, classic Lager territory here. Flavourwise it definitely needs a bit more ‘oomph’, however apart from that it’s not terrible and drinkable in the least. These Enigma hops have piqued my interest now. 6/10.

M: Mid to light, a touch watery, with a thin carbonation underlying this brew. It’s nothing to write home about but it gets the job done. 6/10.

D: Well at least Sample redeemed themselves somewhat in my eyes with this rather OK Lager. There’s a few foibles, as noted above, overall if you like peaches (the flavour, not The Stranglers song), which I don’t (the flavour that is, I quite like The Stranglers song), then give this a go. Otherwise there are much better Lagers out there to vie for your attention – here’s some off the top of my head: Sierra Nevada Nooner Pilsner, Balter Pilsner, Weihenstephaner Original, Kozel Premium, or Moa Methode (although the Moa isn’t a typical Lager – it’s a bit special). 6/10.

Food match: Baked kingfish with steamed vegetables and a light cream sauce.

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Bacchus Brewing Balt Action Porter (Oak Edition)

Total Score: 8.05/10 DarkFruits1Wood1Vanilla1Tulipglass1

It’s time for us to go Marty! “Where?” Back to the Bacchus! – Doc Hops. So this one came as recommended from Ross Kenrick himself – a Baltic Porter, which is brewed with Lager yeast, so you learn something new every day… problem is that I forgot 2 things I knew every day… at this rate I’ll have early-onset dementia in a less than a decade (I shouldn’t jest – dementia is a pretty serious health issue hey). So Bacchus makes a Balt Action Porter and an oak edition of the Balt Action, now everyone knows that oak is better right? No? Well it is – now you know. Flavours expected in this 9.8% ABV behemoth are dark fruits, maybe a touch of acidic sourness (as Baltic Porters are known for), brown sugar, and vanilla from the oak… this should be one tasty brew!

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Deep cola-coloured body, difficult to tell if it’s cloudy or not, 2 centimetre tan head that fizzles down gradually like a soft drink (the fizzing is fairly audible). Stops at about 3mm, impressive that there even was a head at 9.8% ABV. 8/10.

S: Red coffee cherries and dark fruit forward aroma, notes of a slight Greek yoghurt sourness as well, oak character? Hard to tell through that predominant coffee cherries/dark fruit aroma. The lack of oak on the nose and much else apart from that which is noted means this brew falls a little short in the aroma for me. 6/10.

T: Flavour is pretty damn good though – this is deceptively easy drinking! Not too sweet either – which can be a problem with any brew north of 8%. Coffee hints, dark fruits pirouetting on the taste buds, that subtle yoghurt acidic kiss, wood character, vanilla, yes it’s got oak as vaunted on the label, all lead towards a dry/woody finish. It’s got a drying aftertaste as well. Tasty, and an excellent representation of the style – another reason for me to drink more Baltic Porters right here. 9/10.

M: Body though… needs more body at this ABV… medium bodied with a thin and crisp carbonation. Oats or lactose in the next batch perhaps Mr. Kenrick? 6/10.

D: Overall a rather tasty, nay excellent, Baltic Porter. The thin body and two-note aroma were the only things holding this back, it’s tough when you’re brewing with Lager yeast though – it’s prone to a thinner mouthfeel and crispness in general. The oak came through in the flavour though, excellent. Also the drinkability of this brew is surprisingly dangerous: 3.9 standard drinks, time for bed now methinks! 9/10.

Food match: Chargrilled steak and roast veggies… throw in a Yorkie and Diane too.

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Blackman’s Brewery Juicy Banger IPL

Total Score: 7.25/10 WhiteWine1Flowers1CutGrass1Nonicpint1

India/Imperial Pale Lagers are a fairly recent thing and as such they’re not listed yet in the BJCP Style Guide (2015) and fall into the catch-all category of “mixed-style beer”. Also the last IPL I had was 4 Pines Grapefruit IPL, and if you’ll pardon my fruit-related puns, that one ended up a little pear-shaped. However I have faith that Blackman’s Juicy Banger will be rather tasty, why? Because their core beers Arthur, Reginald and Angry Reg are also rather tasty. They can’t afford to drop the ball now when they’re doing so well. Mental note: Have drunk Reginald IPA but not actually reviewed it yet… also I’m slightly disappointed they didn’t give this brew a first name like “Keith” or “Bruce”, oh well, time for Juicy Banger!

Poured from a 330ml can into a Stei… pint? Not sure which glass to use, nonic pint it is then.

A: Cloudy saffron body with a decent white cappuccino foam head that stays put at about half a centimetre. Rather tasty looking, and pale brew – ticks all the boxes, especially the box I like ticking: [is cloudy?]. 8/10.

S: Grassy, white wine, Champagne-like with floral/citric hops notes. It is a playful and moreish aroma that invites you to immediately take a sip. Though it is a touch (JUST A TOUCH!) muted and it would be better if it was amped up a little. But hey we’re nit-picking now, I bet it tastes the bomb, like a juicy banger bomb (were such a thing to exist). 8/10.

T: All of the above flavours, hint of grain as well, mingle together on the palate which begins semi-sweet, follows through to hoppy bitter notes and finishes sharp and dry. It’s an interesting combo – I like the slant on vinous flavours, reminds me of Wolf Of The Willows ISA (India Saison Ale) in that regard. One thing to note though – when a beer is this dry in the finish hops can add a sharply bitter aftertaste: this has that aftertaste. So if you are adverse to that this might be a bitter pill to swallow [literally]. 7/10.

M: Mouthfeel is fine – almost medium bodied with a dense carbonation, slightly burpy on my patented Burp Scale™ or BS for short. 7/10.

D: Floral, dry and tasty, though with a sharp bitter aftertaste due to what I mentioned above. IPL is still a style which will take a while to catch on, it’s like a Hoppy Stout – flavours which can be discordant make a brew a sum of lessor parts. That said I didn’t mind this Juicy Banger so much, it was alright. 7/10.

Food match: Fresh flavours like a chicken crunchy noodle rainbow salad.

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Kirin Lager (the real stuff from Japan)

Total Score: 6.15/10 Barley1Corn1CutGrass1Stein1

This is it: The real Kirin, made in Japan with malt, rice and corn, in all its 334mls of glory. If you’ve ever had that other crap they sell here in Australia – Kirin Megumi or whatever it’s called – you might think that you’re not missing out on anything. But you are: Real Japanese Lagers are a delightful crispy treat – like Peking duck. Problem is if want a real Japanese Lager you need to shop at a Japanese boutique grocery store, and they’re few and far between. I shop at Genki Mart Alderley, they have a small but decent selection of real Japanese beers… it’s a shame the powers that be at Kirin feel that they have to brew their Lager as a crappy Aussie Macro Lager under licence – there’s got to be a real market for authentic Japanese Lagers now.

Poured from a 334ml bottle into a stein.

A: Hazed light golden body with a 1 centimetre white head that compacts down to a lace blanket. Looks fairly good as far as Lagers go, not sure about the haze though – a bit uncommon with this style. 7/10.

S: Aroma is quite Sake forward, which is to be expected whenever rice is on the malt bill. Grainy notes, along with a touch of sweet corn round out a brew that is almost entirely malt-driven, again: to be expected. Overall the aroma is nothing remarkable, however real Japanese Rice Lagers tend to be average in this department. 5/10.

T: Dryyyy, malty/grainy/Sake from the get-go. Mid palate accentuates that dryness with – you guessed it: more dryness, hint of sweet corn as well. Finish is like a crisp winters day in the Sahara – long and dry. Did I mention dry? Yes? Ok, glad I covered that off. Taste couldn’t be further from the crap that’s brewed under licence that I’m starting to wonder if they even try to follow the original recipe. 6/10.

M: Mid to light bodied, none of the wateriness of the Australian brewed version, and a thin but active carbonation. Heaps better than expected. 7/10.

D: This is not a bad beer at all, not Yebisu Premium good, not Koshihikari Echigo good either, but a nonetheless decent example of a real Japanese Rice Lager which has been completely distorted by this “brewed under licence” crap. Why not just come out and say it – we Kirin brew under licence because we can trick consumers into thinking that they’re actually drinking a Japanese Lager when they’re really just drinking an [insert country name] Lager instead? #drinkrealjapaneselagersnotcrap 7/10.

Food match: Get some salted edamame beans and go for gold(en beer).

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Suntory The Premium Malt’s

Total Score: 6.6/10 Flowers1Barley1Earth1Stein1

An intriguing one I found at my local Genko Mart on “quick sale”: Suntory The Premium Malt’s. So “yet another Japanese take on a German/Czech Pilsner…” I hear you moan. Yes, I can hear you, I’m monitoring you right now and can see where your hand is… you know you shouldn’t touch it all the time – you’ll wear it out… [your 2015 Pfizer annual general practitioner conference stress ball that is]… the question of where the cameras are hidden aside [remember that potted plant you didn’t buy], Suntory don’t have the best reputation when it comes to beer, however I noticed I haven’t tried a single one of theirs yet – let’s give ‘em a shot Doc. What’s the worst that could happen? The apocalypse? Perhaps [LOOK OUT!!!].

Poured from a 334ml bottle into a Sapporo (Ooo, sacrilegious!) stein.

A:  Hazed golden body with a thin white lace ring… it sorta didn’t even manage to conjure up a head… bit disappointed with that rather lackadaisical effort from a Japanese Lager… perhaps it was the Sapporo glass? You should never cross the streams (or the glasses) it would seem. 5/10.

S: Toffee/caramel malt forward with a light floral note towards the back. An almost Fuggles (hop) earthiness lingers around too, is this a Lager or an Ale? The aroma itself is confused as to the answer. Without a doubt one of the weirdest Pilsners that I’ve ever sniffed, and I’ve sniffed a Pilsner or three over the years. 6/10.

T: Floral, minty hop notes mingle with grainy/earthy malts, some toffee sweetness and a hint of ume plum sourness… yes, this is quite a mixed bag of flavours from a Japanese Pilsner, however it goes down alright. Finish is less dry/crisp and more grassy bitter than most other Japanese Lagers out there. I get the general impression that this 5.5% ABV Pilsner doesn’t like to be trifled with… bit of warmth in the aftertaste as well. 7/10.

M: Surprisingly gassy carbonation given the non-existent head. Mid to light bodied, bit of chewiness in there as well. 6/10.

D: What an odd fellow this beer is – it reminded me of a clash of cultures, like a proper English gentleman from the Victorian era with a handlebar moustache, meerschaum pipe and stovepipe hat, who also wears a kimono and practices kendo in the evenings… an odd mix, that works in an odd way, and is oddly good. Which makes this Suntory one of the best Japanese Macro Lagers I’ve had (plus it isn’t brewed here under licence). 7/10.

Food match: Stew, Japanese cream stew if we’re sticking on theme.

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