Bacchus Brewing Blackadder Goes Forth

Total Score: 7.6/10 Smoke1DarkFruits1Flowers1Tulipglass1

I’m a huge fan of Blackadder (the third series was my favourite) so seeing Bacchus embrace the genius that is Blackadder in the naming of one of their latest mad science experiments they call “beer” I was insta-sold on this. Reading the label got me more excited: “A traditional Scotch Ale with some cunning twists. We used Scottish Barley & infused the wort with heather tips. We then added Sinamar (pure malt extract) to turn it black & then spiced with a dash of Octomore Peated Whisky.” Shit yeah, this sounds like a brew so cunning you could stick a tail on it and call it a weasel [Blackadder reference FYI]. The Bacchus beers are nothing if not interesting, which is why this is my 20th Bacchus review, keep ‘em coming Ross!

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Yep, she’s black as – darkest Scotch Ale I’ve encountered – looks like a Stout. The head was remarkable in its ability to almost immediately vanish, it was tan-coloured when it was there, now it’s just a body without a head (reminds me of Blackadder S1, Ep2 “Head” in that regard). 5/10.

S: Octomore peat comes through right away… there wasn’t much chance it wouldn’t come through – Octomore being the peatiest whiskey in the world. Hints of dark fruit struggle through that bold peat… I hope the other flavours come through – I mean I love peated whiskey (Ardbeg 10yro being a personal favourite) but I really want to get the heather notes as well. 6/10.

T: Flavour is go-oood though! Octomore peat comes through, though more a whisper rather than a roar, with a heavy dark fruit and brown sugar base, a touch of floral heather and a finish of earthy hops to help dull that heady sweetness. Smoky peat lives on in the aftertaste. The balance is pretty spot on for a Scotch Ale, and it’s borderline intense in flavour… hard not to give it top marks… further sips tip it over the line on the sugar side and it begins to cloy just a touch. 9/10.

M: Mouthfeel is a bit of a mess – mid to light, rather watery body, with a thin but dense carbonation – definitely needs more body. 5/10.

D: This is one of those brews where the sum isn’t the greater than the parts – there’s one part that really works (the flavour) while the rest falls a bit flat. It’s got a bit of a boilermaker warming effect to it as well. I like the flavour, though I’m a bit of a salty peated single-malt drinker so I can imagine the peat character could be a bit much for others. Not my favourite Scotch Ale though: Skullsplitter is. 8/10.

Food match: Probs go some game meats and cheese right now. Heart attack later.

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Exit Brewing #016 Scotch Ale

Total Score: 7.15/10 Caramel1Butter1Smoke1Tulipglass1

Wait, I thought #002 was Exit’s Scotch Ale? … I’m confused… what I’m not confused about however is buying and drinking yet another awes-wellSchopshwasn’tgreat-ome brew from those purveyors of numbered beers: Exit. No I’m saying the brewery name – I’m not ordering you to leave the building you’re in right now. Just wanted to clear that up. Wait, where are you going? Oh well, I’ll just banter to myself now (like I often do – they say talking to oneself is the first sign of madness, I say it’s the first sign of a decent conversation – ZING!). So, umm, yeah me… I like beer. I’m keen to find out what the deal with Exit’s numbering system is and why they had #002 as a 7.5% ABV Scotch Ale and now #016 as the same, feels like they’re doubling up somewhere [a less lazy man would probably Google this].

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Presents a slight hazed rust-coloured body with a nice tight (but not creamy dense) 1 centimetres beige head that slowly drops down. Let’s face facts – she looks a beauty, like the Scottish equivalent of a sports car (which is apparently the mid-engined Argyll GT… oh dear… look it’s not pretty but Scotland has its own rugged charm – let’s celebrate that). 8/10.

S: Peated malt, of course! I for one love peated malt, but the problem with peated malt in beers is that once you smell peated malt you can’t smell much else at all. There’s clearly some caramel/toffee/molasses chicanery going on in there but little gets past old mate peat. Aroma is OK though… a hint of rotting banana peel (phenols) as well. I’m gonna go with a: 6/10.

T: “Slick like a seal” – some Scottish dude. Flavours of caramel and a hint of butterscotch (diacetyl – acceptable for this style) swirl around with peat, who gets around – peat is everywhere – all over the palate. Thankfully peat doesn’t drown out the palate – he’s merely your chum who sticks around no matter what, even throwing down if there’s a fight. Touch of dark (and decaying) fruit as well. Tasty drop overall but lacking a touch in complexity if I’m being honest (which is sort of the deal with these review thingies). 7/10.

M: Nice body (still bantering to myself), reasonably hefty with a dense but flat(ish) carbonation. 8/10.

D: Tasty enough brew from Exit but missing just a little bit of that something-something, still I didn’t mind it, how’s about an: 8/10.

Food match: Rich and stewy foods, like stew perhaps, yeah that one.

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Red Hill Truffled Scotch Ale

Total Score: 7.15/10 Caramel1Earth1Nut1Tulipglass1

Being a big fan of that black tuber that frankly looks like a turd but has an amazing impact on the flavour of foods: the not-so-humble truffle – I was instantly sold on this Red Hill Truffled Scotch Ale, the regular Scotch Ale of which is the only brew of theirs I’ve reviewed thus far. This whole truffle thing is like Rye to me – if it’s listed as an ingredient I had better damn taste it. Having most of my truffle experience from eating truffle Pecorino I’m expecting real earthy and nutty overtones to this brew, which is something that gels well to the Scotch Ale style anyway… actually quite looking forward to this one – my first truffle beer – don’t let me down Red Hill, your regular Scotch Ale was pretty decent though so I’m expecting this to be as well.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Hazy mahogany body with a rather thin beige head. Plenty of bubbles in the glass big and small, one would think that would be a sign of over carbonation but in my experience it usually means the opposite. Looks more brown than their regular Scotch Ale (which came across with a ruby tinge), perhaps an influence from the black truffle? 7/10.

S: Less earthy/nutty than expected and very malt driven with sweet caramel/toffee malts and a touch of brandy and dark fruits (plum, raisin, and a hint of prune). Less bold and earthy than I remember the original being, however that was had on tap 3 years ago and many a beer has been drunk in that time. 6/10.

T: Thankfully though there is some earthy/nuttiness in the flavour profile – which begins with a big dulcet toffee/caramel base, hint of roasted chestnut, a touch of earthiness followed by cracked pepper and a dry cracker finish. Hint of earthy hops in there as well. The truffle flavour itself doesn’t come through, but truffle is a complementary ingredient and you get the sense it is there based on the earthy/nutty notes. 8/10.

M: Almost medium bodied with a thin and insipid carbonation – it’s not a deal breaker but from the original I tried (which was on tap of course) this needs more body and a creamy texture to work best. 6/10.

D: Not bad at all – I got the effect of truffles in this beer, though I feel if they added just a bit more this brew could have been something special, also the mouthfeel was lacking and the aroma was a bit one dimensional – however these are simply things that can be improved as the base beer is already good. 7/10.

Food match: Potato dishes, game meats and stews will do well here.

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KAIJU! Beer & Exit Brewing Schopsh

Total Score: 7.3/10 Smoke1Earth1Coriander1Tulipglass1

With a Sean Connery skinned T-800 Terminator face on the label this hoppy Scotch Ale intrigued me from the get (go)… and I just realised the name of the beer is an amalgamation of ‘Scotch’ and ‘Hop’, cool [although the obvious beer name would have been ‘Hopscotch’]. So yeah, 2 of my favourite Aussie craft brewers: KAIJU! [which must always be written in caps with the exclamation point at the end] Beer and Exit Brewing have joined forces (for good instead of evil) and created what will no doubt be a flavoursome juggernaut (KAIJU! only make BIG beers). Whether or not this will work or be an odd experience like Killer Sprocket’s Peated Pale Ale remains to be seen… or tasted in this case.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Cloudy mahogany body with a thin tan head that slowly disintegrates into splotchy patches. Tis a Scotch Ale to be sure, aye. One that conjures up an image of me sitting in a wingback chair in front of a smouldering fireplace wearing an embroidered silk housecoat, smoking from a Meerschaum pipe whilst reading the Edinburgh Gazetteer… yes, this beer makes me feel like I’m a character in an Arthur Conan Doyle novel. 9/10.

S: Peat to be sure, hops abundant as well, those KAIJU! earth-driven hops, with piney and delicate mandarin as well. Overall aroma balance is pretty even, though I suspect that’s because the hops have had time to settle down a bit what with this being brewed months ago. Hints of caramel come through after another whiff – this is one good aroma! 8/10.

T: Starts with peat smoke, ends with peat smoke (aftertaste is decidedly peaty). In-between is where it gets a bit interesting: Earthy/piney hops, hint of mandarin, caramel and a medium bitter herbal hop finish. IMO every hop-driven peated beer ends up with a herbal hop note at the end, it seems to be a characteristic of this combination. Is it distracting? A little bit… enough to make me reconsider getting it again. However more importantly: Is it tasty? Yes, yes it is. 7/10.

M: Medium bodied with a bit of hop oils and a thin but lingering carbonation. 7/10.

D: So the great peat/hops in beer experiment continues, and apart from that herbal bitterness in the finish I think it works rather well, there’s definitely enough going on to keep this beer-stronomer happy. All I am saying is give peat a chance. And on that pun I bid you all adieu for now. 7/10.

Food match: Roast pheasant with a forest wild mushroom salad and mash.

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Traquair Jacobite Ale

Total Score: 8.45/10 Caramel1 Nut1 DarkFruits1 Tulipglass1

Traquair Jacobite Ale is an interesting one – history buffs will know well of the famous Jacobite Rebellions, which had the aim of restoring James VII of Scotland (and later his heirs) to the throne of England for its wholehearted brutality (mainly on the English side). However there were several alcoholic beverages to come out of the bloodshed of this era – a testament to the Scottish love of ‘a wee dram’ Drambuie is one. One of my favourite cheap single-malt whiskies: Bailie Nicol Jarvie is another, and now perhaps a third Jacobite themed favourite will be found in Traquair Jacobite Ale?

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Deep, dark, murky brown body with a beige head that soon enough disappears to leave (an expected given the 8% ABV) thin lace ring around the glass. Looks foreboding, and we all love foreboding [don’t we!?]. 8/10.

S: Malts dominate with a heady molasses/toffee note and some brandy thrown in. There are hints of over-ripe dark fruits, plum and prune specifically, with the added spices described on the label strangely absent in the aroma. 7/10.

T: Sweet (yet not over-sweet) from the get-go with the aforementioned molasses/toffee characters, then it follows through to bready/nutty note, and finishes with a touch of bitterness that is quite well-restrained and warranted given the profile. Some dark fruit flavours come through during a second sip, however it is the restraint of the characters that is both noted and lauded with this brew. Still didn’t detect any spices though. 9/10.

M: Mid to heavy bodied with a fine/dense carbonation. 8/10.

D: Easy-drinking for anything close to the 8% ABV this brew is putting out, with some decent and well-balanced molasses/toffee/bready/nutty/dark fruit characters that suit the style well. I missed the spices, but that could just be a sign of how subtle and well blended they are, otherwise this was a tasty Wee Heavy/Scotch Ale for a cold Canberra autumn day which I will doubtless encounter again in my many years drinking on this Earth. I really have the Jacobites to thank for many alcoholic beverages now… so what is it about the Jacobite Rebellion and tasty drinks? The Crimean War didn’t produce anything decent beverage-wise that I’m aware of. I guess this is a question for the ages… or historians… whatever. 9/10.

Food match: Medieval baked chicken with currants, prunes, clove, cinnamon, ginger and mace. Throw in some roasted vegetables too.

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Tullibardine 1488 Whiskey Beer

Total Score: 5/10 BrownSugar1 Wood1 Caramel1 Tulipglass1

Tullibardine 1488 Whiskey Beer combines two of my favourite things: 1) Tullibardine, which is Gaelic for “lookout hill” – I love Gaelic dialects, and 2) 1488, the year that the Royal Netherlands Navy was formed by decree of Maximillian of Austria… who doesn’t love the Royal Netherlands Navy amiright? What? Oh yeah, beer, whiskey, I like them too. (not so) Interesting fact: Tullibardine Distillery is set in the beautiful Perthshire countryside at the gateway to the Highlands… and they don’t use computers, or email even [Luddites!] I read this on their website… wait, what?!

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Unexpectedly pale for a Scotch Ale with a cloudy honey coloured body and a thin white ring of lace around the edge of the glass… it’s not uncommon to find insipid heads on > 7% ABV brews, so I tend not to detract points for that. 7/10.

S: Bit of the old butterscotch Diacetyl on the nose, stylistically this is acceptable as long as it doesn’t go overboard. There is a candi sugar sweetness upfront, sideways and all over this aroma, along with barley and woody notes… was expecting a hint of peat but then again it comes from a Highland distillery and they tend their whiskies more towards sweetness. A bit boring if I’m honest [and I am]. 5/10.

T: Hmmm, the Diacetyl is pronounced and a bit ‘tsk-tsk’ indeed. The rest is candi sugar, Werther’s Originals, and touches of wood and barley characters. As an avid and well versed Single Malt drinker I’m having a great deal of trouble picking up any whiskey notes – not good enough for a “whiskey beer”. 5/10.

M: And the disappointment continues: the mouthfeel is surprisingly watery given the ABV with a mid to light body and flat as a tack carbonation. 4/10.

D: It started out alright and went downhill from there. I really do love Scotland as a country, as brewers and distillers, and the fantastically delightful Scottish people all-round. This beer isn’t fit to represent the experience and country that is Scotland, and if you want to gauge a more accurate image of a decent Scotch Ale (or Wee Heavy as they’re also known) get your hands on, and your mouth around, a bottle of the brilliantly named (and tasting) Orkney Brewery Skull Splitter and revel in the joy of a Scottish hangover the next day – the cure: Haggis… just don’t think about how it’s made. 5/10.

Food match: Some sort of stew perhaps.

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Red Hill Scotch Ale

Total Score: 7.1/10 Caramel1 Smoke1 Coffee1 Nonicpint1

Red Hill are a brewer (out at Mornington Peninsula, Victoria) that I’ve recently enjoyed some fine Ales from at The Durham (Kingston, Canberra) during a Victorian tap takeover. To be honest I find the labels on their bottles totally uninspiring and I never would have bought a bottle if I had seen it in a shop (same with Kooinda for that matter), but now that I have tried this Scotch Ale and I know it’s decent I will get another Red Hill beer in future. Which just goes to show how important good marketing/label design is for a craft brewer.

Poured from tap into a Schooner.

A: Presents a hazy deep ruby body with an off white half centimetre head. Not bad, it definitely benefits from being a tap beer here. 7/10.

S: Aromas are roasted coffee, hints of peat and cardamom, with a big sweet caramel malt base. I’m expecting this to be a fairly sweet Scotch Ale, as many do tend to be. Bog standard for the style apart from the intriguing notes of roasted coffee. 7/10.

T: All of the above is the flavour profile. That sweet caramel base is well done as it doesn’t ruin everything with cloying sweetness. The finish is mildly earthy hop bitterness. It could do with a bit more peat and more complexity but otherwise the flavours are good. 7/10.

M: Excellent medium bodied with a creamy carbonation, again tap rules over bottles in this department. 8/10.

D: In the end Red Hill Scotch Ale is a decent but non-confrontational representation of the style. Personally I would prefer a bit more adventure but I’m nonetheless satisfied with this easy-going Scotch Ale. I’m not so impressed with the price in comparison to Scotch Ales readily available from Scotland, which teeters on far too expensive in comparison, but for a Christmas treat I’m sure this Ale will make it on Santa’s “nice” list. 7/10.

Food match: Christmas pudding might overpower this Ale but a good roast turkey/chicken wont.

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