Pirate Life Stout

Total Score: 6.7/10 Earth1Coffee1Flowers1Nonicpint1

Everyone must be aware: I love Pirate Life. The brewer – I’m not keen on piracy itself… or am I? I’m not… but am I really? So the brewer of my favourite Australian-made American style IPA (which is still #13 in my all-time list surprisingly) have finally turned their hand to brewing a Stout. Despite IPAs and Stouts being technically Ales (i.e. being fermented with top-fermenting yeasts), there is still a huge difference between the art of brewing a Pale Ale versus a Stout. With one the hop bill is pivotal, and for the other it’s the malt bill that makes the biggest difference. Oh yeah, one is light the other is dark… but didn’t need me to point that out (I hope!). So can Pirate Life still be awesome brewing a Stout? Let’s find out.

Poured from a 500ml can into a nonic pint.

A: Obsidian (and no doubt opaque) black body with a massive 1.5 inch mocha-coloured head, through no fault of my own – it was a normal 45 degree pour with no agitation, but I guess Pirate Life Stout was just bursting to spring forth from the can. The head leaves decent patchy lace as it descends. Looks yum. 8/10.

S: Roasty/earthy and coffee characters… aroma isn’t very bold given the 7.2% ABV, it’s nice but I’m wondering if a flavour trap has been laid for my unsuspecting tongue. Floral hop hints as well, but overall the aroma is quite restrained and lulling me into a false sense of security. 7/10.

T: Cheekily easy drinking this 7.2% ABV Oatmeal Stout. Flavours noted above (roasty/earthy/coffee characters with floral hops) are present and reporting for duty on my taste buds. Finishes with an earthy/espresso coffee medium bitterness. Aftertaste a bit too on the bitter side TBH. Same complaint from the Mismatch Chocolate Stout applies here as well: It’s a bit too safe and textbook. 6/10.

M: Mid to heavy bodied, reasonably creamy mouthfeel, pretty decent but could be thicker given the ABV and Oatmeal Stout style. 8/10.

D: Slightly better than the Mismatch, yet still quite disappointing for Pirate Life – was expecting something “F**KEN WOW!” but ended up with “Huh, ok, yeah…”. Pirate Life still own the IPA style IMO, however they need only look to fellow Adelaideans Prancing Pony and their Magic Carpet Midnight Ride if they want an example of the sort of Stout I would expect from a brewer of this caliber. By “caliber,” of course, I refer to both the size of their gun barrels and the high quality of their characters… Two meanings… caliber… it’s a homonym… Forget it. 7/10.

Food match: Try ill-tempered mutated sea bass [Austin Powers references aplenty].

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Rogue Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout

Total Score: 7.9/10 Earth1Chocolate1Coffee1Nonicpint1

I can’t Adam and beli-Eve that I haven’t reviewed this classic and highly lauded Oatmeal Stout by Rogue (one of my… well, not favourite brewers but they’re definitely up there in my top 50). The funny part is that I’ve drunk so many beers now I sometimes think I’ve had a beer before and I recommend it to people without realising that in fact I haven’t actually had it before – this is one of those beers. I could have sworn I reviewed it and gave it an 8/10 or something along those lines. Oh well, I love Oatmeal Stouts, so I’ll probably end up giving it an 8/10 anyhow. I don’t get the Shakespeare reference, was he partial to Oatmeal Stouts? I don’t even think the style existed in his time. Whatevs.

Poured from a 650ml bomber bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Straight off the mark it looks viscous – like old engine oil (the real thing, not the brew by Harviestoun… which used to be more viscous back in the day when it was 9% ABV!). Deep black body with a mocha-coloured head that recedes leaving a thin lace ring… oh well, average head but looks syrupy, that’s all that matters. 8/10.

S: Cheeky fruity hop notes mingle with a chocolate and coffee combo that never gets old – I love a good Stout! Earthy red coffee cherry character with a hint cigar tobacco sweetness. Not quite world-class but bloody moreish nonetheless. Moreish/10… which I guess translates to: 8/10.

T: Just an excellent, easy-drinking Oatmeal Stout. Nothing extraordinary – just solid and dependable, a Land Rover of Stouts this is [I’ll take a LR over a Jeep any day of the week]. Flavours are similar to the above with notes of: Earthy/floral hops, chocolate, coffee, and a hint of tobacco leaf and a whisper of smoke. Aftertaste has a lingering bitterness, it’s not sharp but it does mar the flavour just a touch. 8/10.

M: Medium, almost heavy bodied with a soft/dense carbonation. Nowhere near Founders in stature and body, however it’s got enough heft to be considered a real Oatmeal Stout… I do wonder how Founders get so much body in their beers… but I digress. 7/10.

D: After the average-at-best-but-really-that’s-just-a-nice-way-of-saying-crap Milk Stout by Brouhaha it’s comforting to drink an Oatmeal Stout that ticks all the boxes – it’s not quite as good as Rogue’s own Chocolate Stout (I do quite like that one!), this is just good, a good example of the style, quite acceptable and drinkable, tasty even. So there. What where? There? There. 8/10.

Food match: In keeping with the Shakespeare theme: Roasted game meats n’ stuff.

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Bacchus Brewing After Dinner Stout

Total Score: 7.55/10 mint1Chocolate1Biscuit1Tulipglass1

I’m going to make this a quick preamble because I’m eager to crack open this bottle: Bacchus rock! That is all. Seriously though – if you love your experimental craft beers and you haven’t tried a Bacchus, then you might need to change that. Thankfully Bacchus brews are now being distro’d across this fine land of ‘Stralia, so get your mitts on them. Head Brewer Ross Kenrick is Australia’s own Mikkel Borg Bjergsø (aka Mikkeller): Nothing is off the table for Ross – if you could brew a beer with pumpkin (an absurd idea!) Ross would give it a shot. Anyway, so much for the short preamble, my preamble once again became a ramble, oh well it’s my blog dammit!

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Presents with a black/dark brown body and a half centimetre mocha head. Sooo practically all Stouts look awesome to me, I find it can be hard to score their appearance (unlike most Lagers) so I generally look for head formation flaws: After Dinner Stout doesn’t have many… sooo: 7/10.

S: Another “you get what it says on the tin” beer – Dark chocolate, mint, biscuit and a gentle milky sweetness that playfully lingers on – it’s another winner from Bacchus with aroma. Ross is killing it! [in a good way] 9/10.

T: Minty… quite minty… perhaps a bit too minty… you see the thing about mint is – you don’t need much of it to have a huge impact. It’s like the king of homeopathy herbs: Only a tiny bit goes a long way. What I’m trying to get at is “yes” we have chocolate (dark and milk) and biscuit, etc… however the aftertaste is quite minty. My breath feels fresh and it shouldn’t [or should it?]. Just a touch less mint in future iterations I reckon. Still it’s quite tasty. 8/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a minty… err, mid to light carbonation. For an Oatmeal Stout it needs more body – see Founders Breakfast Stout for a good example of this. 6/10.

D: The mint really killed it for me by the time I reached the bottom of the glass – it felt more and more amplified as I drank this. Shame as it really did start out so well, but [moral to story] you should never underestimate mint: It’s a powerful flavour force. A flapowerfulvourforce if you will… nope? Oh well, there’s no pleasing you. Next up I’ve got a Timmy Ho’s Double Double from Bacchus sitting in my fridge. It’s a “Double-Double” (double cream, double sugar) Coffee Milk Stout… I’m looking forward to that one. 6/10.

Food match: After dinner mints, duh.

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Little Creatures The Hotchkiss Six Domestic Stout

Total Score: 6.6/10 Coffee1Flowers1Earth1Nonicpint1

So Little Creatures are not the same brewer that they used to be what with now being owned by Lion/Nathan, which is owned by Kirin – it’s like being bought by a macro that was bought out by a macro – I’m sure that there’s a little-fish/big-fish/even-bigger-fish analogy in there… anyway, point is: When a powerful brewer that makes its money from margins buys you out you are now beholden to their “making money from margins” philosophy – it’s totally anti-craft. Craft beer is about quality at almost any expense. So how does this relate to this “Hotchkiss Six”? I guess we’ll soon find out [spoiler: not well!].

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Presents with a deep opaque cola body and a foamy tan half centimetre head – for something brewed with oats it is suspiciously thin overall – not even close to looking as good as any other Oatmeal Stouts I’ve tried (have a look at a Samuel Smiths or St-Ambroise and you’ll see what I’m talking about). 5/10.

S: Aroma is more laudable with notes of coffee cherry, dark chocolate and chicory upfront – this is right there in Stout territory with roasted goodness. Hints of smoky/earthy notes too – not bad at all – though still detectably thin. 8/10.

T: An easy going Stout with almost no challenge whatsoever – a far cry from the original Dreadnaught [seriously just bring back original Dreadnaught already f*^kers!] – flavour is a sort of nebulous sweet/sour/bitterness that is difficult to describe due to the lack thereof. It’s like death by a thousand hints of chocolate/coffee cherries/chicory with a floral/earthy/tobacco hop kiss – which sounds awesome but it’s really not because of all the wasted promise. 7/10.

M: Wow, no detectable oat texture – a wafer-thin (alright mid to light but given the style wafer-thin) body with a flat UK pub carbonation. 4/10.

D: Little Creatures have, as expected by their macro overlords, played it safe with this one. Too safe? F#&k yes! Really it is to be expected by a craft brewer being bought out by a macro brewer but nonetheless disappointing because (on a personal level) Little Creatures Pale Ale was the craft beer that got me into craft beer – without it I may never have written an incredible 265,000+ words on the subject of glorious beer, and yet here we are: 2016 and Little Creatures are releasing this pile of average on us, seems a shame to see the once-mighty reduced to a macro mediocre. 6/10.

Food match: Roast beef, roast potatoes, carrots, broccoli and Yorkshire pudding.

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Lobethal Bierhaus Chocolate Oatmeal Stout

Total Score: 6.95/10 Chocolate1Vanilla1Nut1Nonicpint1

This is a new one for me from a brewer I’ve never heard of: Lobethal Bierhaus Chocolate Oatmeal Stout – they hail from South Australia, which apart from Coopers isn’t renowned for its craft beer scene, but who knows Louis? I think this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship [insert walk off into a foggy night]. Seriously though I do like my Oatmeal Stouts – so this is a real tester for whether Lobethal has the right “stuff” for the discerning drinker in me [trapped inside layers of beer gut, screaming to get out but I won’t let him, muahahaha!].

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Presents an opaque [insert random brand name] cola coloured body with a generous wispy 1 inch tan head which soon recedes to a half centimetre on top. Looks a bit weak in the head department if I’m being honest [am I ever not?]. 6/10.

S: At least the aroma is bang on the money with vibrant sweet milk chocolate, vanilla and nutty/earthy characters. Not so much with dark roasted espresso characters, but they are needed not in a Sweet Stout of this calibre – balancing the sweet notes with a bitter/sour/dry foil becomes crucial here. 8/10.

T: Hits that chocolate/vanilla/nutty/earthy spot well, and as it turns out there is a hint of smoke too. As far as Oatmeal Stout/Sweet Stout flavours go this is one middle of the road yet tasty nonetheless affair with a classic Dry Stout finish to cap it off. Flavour is overall nothing “WOW! Megabucks!” nor is it also “Meh!”. 7/10.

M: Mouthfeel, for an Oatmeal Stout at least, is way too thin – mid to light bodied with a light/nearly flat carbonation. Compare this to the king of mouthfeels: Founders Breakfast Stout – and this is indeed, 5.8% ABV taken into account, lacking sorely. 5/10.

D: I’m sorry but after reviewing the awesome Hardtail Henry Oaked Stout from NZ brewer Panhead my taste buds have been ruined for Oatmeal Stouts. Yes, yes, I know there’s a bit of a difference between a 5.8% and a 8% ABV Oatmeal Stout, and we can’t always be drinking 8% ABV brews because some of us have to drive home after Soccer practice, but really: Fuck Soccer – a tasty brew like Hardtail is more important than being fit [Warning: Being fit is definitely more important than a tasty brew – disregard Doc’s advice on this matter]. 7/10.

Food match: Rich casserole/stews and crusty bread with this bad boy.

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Nail Oatmeal Stout

Total Score: 6.85/10 Coffee1 Chocolate1 Oil1 Nonicpint1

Looks like I’ve finally made my way round to reviewing a Nail brew. Why has it taken me this to get around to reviewing a Nail you ask? Simple answer – the label is a massive turn-off for me, looks like a first year graphic design students assignment, plus the quote on the label, whilst being a bad pun (which FYI is craft brewer par for the course) “hammer down a nail” promotes sculling of the beer, which is something I never do with a decent craft brew – I like to take my time dammit, don’t rush me! However I have been told that their beers, despite my judging the book by its cover, are quite good. I’ll be the judge of that… technically I’ll be the pre AND post judge of that.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Obsidian-black-hole black body with a thin tan lace ring where the head should be, oh well, better than a kick in the teeth (or even a nail in the teeth). 6/10.

S: Ripe unroasted coffee beans upfront with a flourish of roasted barley, hint of vegemite and old engine oil – Valvoline 10W-40 to be precise. This certainly has aroma boldness in spades – though I suspect it may be a heavy-handed Oatmeal Stout. 8/10.

T: Nope, not heavy-handed at all, quite a reasonable chap this Nail actually. Drinks like a Coopers Best Extra Stout with less smoke and a touch more sweetness. In that sense it is an Aussie take on the style all the way, which could benefit from a bit more nuance as the American Stouts generally do. Flavours of: Ripe unroasted coffee bean, roasted barley, dark chocolate and oil at the back. Finish is of light bitterness and a touch of metal. 7/10.

M: Medium bodied with an overly aggressive (medium) carbonation given the style, there’s another Aussie beer trait for you – over-carbonation. 6/10.

D: I can see where they were going, Nail, and it’s not bad but truth be told I’ve had better homebrew Stouts than this [not my own homebrew obviously] and at this level of competition given the market saturation of craft beers you really need to be at the top of your game with a product that (pardon the pun) nails the opposition, and Nail doesn’t do that. This is an average Oatmeal Stout that I will not be getting again – I have enough tasty Stouts to whet my aleppetite with, e.g. Samuel Smith’s [INSERT ANY OF THEIR STOUTS HERE] or Exit #003 or Founders Breakfast Stout or Rogue Chocolate Stout… you get the picture. 6/10.

Food match: Chargrilled BBQ meats with chargrilled vegetables.

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Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout

Total Score: 8.85/10 DarkFruits1 Barley1 Coffee1 Nonicpint1

Not only am I about to consume an Oatmeal Stout for your reading (and my tasting) pleasure but this is none other than Samuel Smith’s much celebrated and widely known in all the counties of England and further ashore including Ireland, the Isle of Man and Jersey Islands invigorating, energising and revitalising Oatmeal Stout†. Or something along those lines – the label did look like it had been designed in the 1850’s. And you know what? Frugality like that (i.e. not paying for rebranding in over a hundred years) is rare these days and Samuel Smith has it in spades, cheers Mr. Smith!

Poured from a 550ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Well I accidentally hard poured a khaki head of 2 inches… looks good though with its deep dark cola body. Can’t wait to dive in… yep *taps fingers*. 8/10.

S: Espresso coffee notes mingle with hints of dark fruit and a melange of roasted barley and rolled oats… possibly the most porridge-like beer my nose has inhaled. I like it when my Oatmeal Stouts have oat aromas, like a big glass of breakfast! 8/10.

T: Damn tasty. More on the dark fruit side than coffee/chocolate with those oats really coming in to play with flavour and body. They (the oats) take on dry/tannic qualities towards the finish and there is an amalgamation of bitter/dry/sour/sweet characters that really make this fine Stout shine. Did I mention this is ‘damn tasty’? Oh… right… well this is Stouts finest hour. 9/10.

M: Medium bodied with a fairly lively carbonation. Oats = Chewy. 8/10.

D: Again I’m a big fan of the Samuel Smith’s ales, they’ve all so far been like getting inside a time machine and going back to the 19th century where men were men and women were men too (everyone was a bit hardier back then overall). If you want a real damn tasty and luxurious Stout then look no further. 10/10.

Food match: Back in 1852 when you had to work 16 hrs a day you would generally eat gruel and drink 18 pints of Stout, people wore hats that contained small anvils to help strengthen their neck muscles. Today however beef stew is a better option.

†Thesaurus Nazis will have noted that the three words ‘invigorating’, ‘energising’ and ‘revitalising’ all mean the same thing, congratulations‡. *slow clap*

‡Syntax Nazis will have noted that I used the ‘dagger’ character BEFORE and instead of the ‘asterisk’ character for my footnote, congratulations. *slow clap*

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