Balter XPA

Total Score: 7.15/10 Peach1Peach1Peach1Nonicpint1

I’m on a Balter high after reviewing their new Pilsner and I figured I should give their XPA a look in (even though I first tried it at a bar on Eagle pier Brisbane ages ago when it was first released and I thought the bar staff had incorrectly poured me a schooner of S&W Pacific Ale). Obviously the fact that Scott “I dun work for S&W annimore!” Hargrave is now the head brewer for Stone &… err, Balter, means we can’t cast aspersions all day because: Duh; Balter XPA is basically the same recipe as Pacific Ale. It doesn’t change the fact that a great many people who don’t know why they love S&W Pacific Ale so much will also feel a strange affinity to XPA… but perhaps that was Balter’s plan all along [insert evil laugh here].

Poured from a 375ml can into a nonic pint.

A: Presents a cloudy Gamboge (just another fancy word for orange because I wear some fancy pants) body with a wispy white sea foam head that begins boisterous but ends half-hearted… Balter’s not great with head retention, poor fellas. 6/10.

S: Stone & Fruit… or stone fruit prominent hops, like S&W PA, in fact I can safely copy/paste my comments from my review of Pacific Ale without feeling like I’m cheating: “There’s a really strong peach and nectarine aroma wafting from this brew that says “sit down, take a load off, enjoy!”.” Yep, like that one, only S&W got there first on the peach/nectarine aroma train, so boo Balter. 8/10.

T: The flavour is pretty much EXACTLY as I remember S&W Pacific Ale to be, to the point that in a blind taste test I would be hard pressed to tell them apart. A light peach/nectarine hop note, sweet malt to balance out the hops with precision, and a finish that hints at tart apple but ultimately finishes dry with a light floral bitterness. Yep, it’s the same f__ken beer Balter, cheeky sods! 7/10.

M: Mid to light, more viscous than PA, but with a similar lively carbonation. 7/10.

D: The only major difference between Balter XPA and S&W PA is vessel size and ABV: 5% vs 4.4%. So the only questions you need to ask yourself is: 375ml can or 330ml bottle? And: Do I need to drive anywhere afterwards? To me this is a wasted opportunity of a beer. Yes I get that S&W is the most popular craft beer and when I worked in the bottle-o it outsold the shit out of every other craft beer – what craft brewer wouldn’t want a slice of that sweet sweet money pie? However Hargrave could have used this opportunity not to rest on his laurels but create an even better Pale Ale… instead now his laurels are crushed underbody. 7/10.

Food match: Tapas or Greek cuisine as I said in my S&W PA review.

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Burleigh Brewing Twisted Palm Tropical Pale Ale

Total Score: 5.95/10 PapayaMango1Caramel1Bubblegum1Nonicpint1

Happy New Beer!!! It’s 2017, and I’ve decided to begin the year with a hush rather than bang (I’m getting on these days you see), so without further ado: Burleigh Brewing Twisted Palm Tropical Pale Ale. A Burleigh rep gave me a free sample of this to bruview – since I’m partially-but-not-really famous for my craft beer reviews in the SEQ (South East Queensland, Stralia) region I now get the occasional free beer. BUT WORRY NOT DEAR READER: My strong moral values are enough to protect my reviews from a “free beer” bias taint, so you can rest assured that if it’s truly bad I will trash it in my usual humour-laden manner.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Slightly fluorescent orange/amber body that is lightly hazed with an off-white 1 centimetre foam for a head. The head doesn’t stick around too long but that’s a common theme in most “Pacific” Pale Ales (i.e. Australian/NZ Pale Ales). 6/10.

S: Fruity hops give this PPA a nice ripe and green papaya character, along with hints of mango, caramel malts and a touch of bubble-gum. It’s fresh and fruity nose stands out given the low 4.2% ABV and it reminds me of a cross between Matilda Bay Fat Yak and Stone & Wood Pacific Ale… those are some decent bedfellows to have as well. 8/10.

T: And the penny drops… let’s face it – this is one Pacific Pale Ale that is light in flavour and with it: complexity. At 4.2% ABV I wasn’t expecting to be bowled over, but still S&W Pacific Ale has a great deal more flavour for a measly extra 0.2% alcohol. Yes, the ripe and green papayas, hints of mango/caramel are there but they are for all intents and purposes quite restrained, and as such this lets everything down IMO – bring a little bit more punch next time Burleigh! 5/10.

M: Entry-craft it may be but at least the mouthfeel is done well: Mid to light bodied with a light and creamy carbonation… pretty decent here. 8/10.

D: The other day I had a Fat Yak for the first time in years and you know what – they’ve definitely weakened the flavour in that beer considerably (since being bought out by macro brewer Carlton United of course) and Twisted Palm is more like the shadow of a beer Fat Yak is now than a decent craft brew, which is a shame, because all of these craft brewers doing entry-craft beers are only turning away their biggest customers and supporters (people like me) and for what? Who the f__k knows, not me. 5/10.

Food Match: Chips and aioli… or whatever – anything that doesn’t have flavour.

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4 Pines Indian Summer Pale Ale

Total Score: 6.45/10 Peach1Lemon1PapayaMango1Nonicpint1

Well it’s that time of the week again and boy do I have a treat for you (i.e. me!): 2 x 4 Pines reviews! I know, I know, I said I was only doing one review a week, etcetera and so forth, but I thought that seeing as how I had two 4 Pines beers to review I would indulge myself. So first up we have 4 Pines Indian Summer Pale Ale [ha, ha, I get it, very funny 4 Pines] which is hopefully not one of those crappy “it’s summer so let’s water down our beer” affairs. Hey I’m all for a light flavoured brew on occasion [very funny Doc!] but if this is the summer of anything in Australia 2016 seems to be the summer of crappy watered down “Summer Ales” – bring on the Russian Imperial Stouts already!

Poured from a 375ml can into a nonic pint.

A: Hazed pale straw yellow body with a bold 2 cm white sea foam head that soon drops back to a frankly dismal patch of bubbles on top… quite possibly the most disappointing head I’ve ever witnessed – lucky I weight my ‘A’ score more on the body colour. 5/10.

S: Quite peachy, feels like every Aussie brewer is cribbing off Stone & Wood this summer, with notes of citrus and a hint of mango. Would be pretty impressive if it hadn’t already been done by S&W Pacific Ale… still we can’t really blame brewers for copying one of the best Australian beers can we now? [yes, we can]. 7/10.

T: At least S&W PA has a bit of flavour going on – this however is soda water with a hint of peach/lemon/mango hop characters – far too muted, even for a Summer Ale. Finish is clean and dry with a touch of grain in the aftertaste. If only 4 Pines had the balls to give it a bit more in the flavour department – the promise of a decent beer is hiding right there in the aroma. 6/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a light, almost flat, carbonation – nothing out of the ordinary here. 7/10.

D: Look I get what 4 Pines were trying to do here, I really do, but after the avalanche of Summer Ales we’ve had over here enough is quite becoming enough for me and I just want brewers to get back to their winter catalogue. “What are you talking about Doc, there hasn’t been a deluge of Summer Ales lately!” – well here’s a small list of the breweries doing them this year: James Squire, Mountain Goat, Fortitude Valley, Little Creatures, Nail, and now 4 Pines – I’ve had it with summer! (beers). 7/10.

Food match: Fish and chips with salt & vinegar down by the wharf.

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Garage Project Hāpi Daze

Total Score: 7.5/10 Kiwi1 Grapefruit1 GreenMelon1 Nonicpint1

Although I’ve only had one Garage Project brew thus far (their Venusian Pale Ale), I do admire their experimental approach to brewing and the craft involved in said approach. It was in this spirit that I happened upon Hāpi Daze at the local Murphy’s; Dan. First thought that sprung to mind was “Oh good, Dan Murphy’s might actually start expanding their beer range for the first time in years…” followed by “… I do enjoy a decent Pacific Pale Ale as well – instabuy スーパー! [I always exclaim things in Japanese when I get excited]”.

Poured from a 330ml can into a nonic pint.

A: Presents with an appetizing cloudy tangerine body and boisterous fluffy 2cm white head that reduces to a half centimetre leaving lace patterns on the side of the glass. Good protein content in that head as the astute beer connoisseur would note. 9/10.

S: I admit I have a bit of a love affair with New Zealand hops – specifically the aroma (more than the flavour – which I often find lacking somewhat) Hāpi Daze is no slouch in the hops department either, with notes of: Cumquat, Kiwi fruit, stone fruit and honey dew melon rounding out a hop driven aroma that is sweet with tart and bitter notes. There is a thin malt base providing a biscuity sweetness as well (I refer to the Australian-English not American use of the word “biscuit” in all of my reviews in case you hadn’t noticed). 9/10.

T: Flavour once again, as it so often does with Kiwi hopped brews, fails to live up to the aroma hype. That said the hops are present, and showcased well in this 4.6% ABV lightweight… well lightweight to a regular Russian Imperial Stout drinker like myself anyway. The above noted aromas are present and are finished with an acidic citric bitterness that would be right at home in a glass of Sauvignon Blanc (an artefact of the Nelson Sauvin hop). Overall taste is strangely assertive yet light. 7/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a sharpish (though it could be the acidity) carbonation. 7/10.

D: I like Hāpi Daze, especially the Fonz, it’s fresh, refreshing, eat fresh (no wait that’s Subway) with a bit of that acidic citric bitterness at the end that says “Oi, I aint going dun without a fight bru!”. Garage Project have hit on a marginal winner here, if only they could get the price down to a competitive level (@ $22 a 4-pack it isn’t really competing with similar brews, eg: Little Creatures Pale Ale). 7/10.

Food match: Fush and chups… or salmon steaks… or fried calamari rings.

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