Kirin Ichiban Shibori Stout

Total Score: 6.75/10 Chocolate1Caramel1Malt1Nonicpint1

This is the real stuff: Kirin Ichiban Shibori Stout bought to me by a friend from Japan. I’ve been told by that same friend that it’s deadly smooth, as this is a person I trust when it comes to beers because we have a similar taste in brews. So yeah, not an opportunity I often get to try a real Japanese beer (unless I hit the Genko Mart in Alderley, Brisvegas) due to the fact that most Japanese beers that reach Australia aren’t even brewed in Japan! Remember my review of the large Sapporo can that I thought was fair dinkum Japanese? Yep: Made in Vietnam. If I want a Vietnamese beer I’ll buy one, and if I want a Japanese beer, well… it’s a bit harder on the supply side there. Anyhow let’s crack this thing!

Poured from a 350ml can into a nonic pint.

A: Near as black can be body with a sizable 4 centimetre mocha head that slowly disintegrates enough to make it drinkable… eventually… massive bubbles in the head and not much lace left on the side of the glass as it goes down, she ain’t pretty, but looks ain’t everything (least that’s what they tell me). 6/10.

S: Roasted malt and rich molasses all over this nose. Hints of dark fruit as well, this is definitely erring into Baltic Porter territory. Some dark chocolate character comes through at about whiff number 5, and there she is – we’re in Stout country now. It’s not a bad aroma at all, reasonably fulsome and sweet with nary a hint of bitterness (I guess that’s where the smooth comes in to the picture). 7/10.

T: Is this a beer or some kind of Stouty milkshake? Flavours definitely lean towards chocolate (milk & dark) with that roasted malt and molasses character providing a solid base with a nicely balanced sweetness – nothing too over the top, but conversely it goes down a bit easy if that makes sense. Drying towards the finish with a very mild touch of bitterness. Possibly the easiest Stout I’ve had in a looong time. 7/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a carbonation that went from “wow, look at me go!” to “blerrrrrgh” (i.e. flat) in a very short time. I’ve seen this before with some Stouts – they lose carbonation in a blink of the eye. 5/10.

D: I’m liking it, but I’m also wanting a Russian Imperial Stout for better or worse – I can’t help it, I’m a RIS drinker at heart. This is definitely a Stout for people who have never tried one but would like to dabble, it’s like Guinness in that respect, though Guinness is more coffee focused. Give it a go aiight. 7/10.

Food match: If we’re matching Japanese: Seared wagyu tataki.

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Mismatch Chocolate Stout

Total Score: 6.5/10 Chocolate1Smoke1Coffee1Nonicpint1

Another Mismatch? Seems like they only just bought out their Evil Archie’s Red IPA and that was rather tasty… their tastiest brew so far IMO. This one is a Chocolate Stout as well… doesn’t say if it’s got actual chocolate or just Chocolate malt, I’m going to assume the latter. What is Chocolate malt you ask? It’s a roasted barley malt that gives off chocolate/cocoa flavours when added to the beer wort. Interestingly Chocolate malt (like other roasted malts) contain no enzymes, which means they have no diastatic power and ergo the sugars don’t ferment so another malt needs to be used as a base malt such as: Stout malt or Pale malt. This fact is brought to you by Wikipedia – the most reliable font of knowledge on Earth.

Poured from a 375ml can into a nonic pint.

A: Deep brown/cola, almost opaque black, body with a nice 1 centimetre tan cappuccino foam head that slowly drops back leaving some OK lace on the side of the glass. Decent head, shows off a good amount of proteins in the lace, should be alright this. 8/10.

S: Roasted notes, dark chocolate, hint of espresso coffee, pretty standard really [Dr. Evil voice]. Smells a bit watery and thin though [oh no!]. Other than that it’s an average/typical Chocolate Stout aroma, nothing mind-blowing, sorry Mismatch. 6/10.

T: Commonplace Stout: Confirmed. The right flavours are all there: Roasted notes, dark chocolate, espresso coffee, touch of smoke, medium espresso bitterness in the finish… but it is what it is without being amazing or bringing anything new to the table. Still there’s nothing wrong with being typical, following the style guidelines accurately, it just makes for a 6/10 beer, whereas if Mismatch had given this a bit more balance and complexity it would push it to the next level. 6/10.

M: Not as watery as the aroma suggested – mid to light, borderline medium, bodied with a light but dense carbonation. Not bad at all – the 5.6% ABV gives this the body it needs. 8/10.

D: Bit of a mixed bag – overall this is a good Stout, nonetheless it’s a bit ordinary (like several of Mismatch’s brews, Evil Archie’s is definitely a standout brew). The good news is: They have all the fundamentals down, they just need to push the envelope a little. In the case of Chocolate Stout: Better sweet/bitter balance, more complexity in the flavour. The groundwork is there though. PS: Nitro this. 7/10.

Food match: Steak and Guinness pie would go a treat here.

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Marston’s Oyster Stout

Total Score: 6.95/10 DarkFruits1 Vegemite1 Chocolate1 Nonicpint1

Marston’s Oyster Stout isn’t actually made with oysters but takes its name from the food of choice for poor English folk, and why Stout? Because Stout is the favoured style of the downtrodden workers of the UK. So in effect this brew is Marston’s homage to the proletariat of Britain. Anyway, history lesson out of the way – is it any good? We shall soon see.

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a nonic pint (the working class glass of choice).

A: Presents an opaque dark brown loose packed 2 cm tan foam head which slowly recedes leaving a half centimetre lather on top. Judging by the head it looks a bit thin bodywise… nothing like those lovely dense nitro Stouts, oh well. 6/10.

S: Aroma hits you with Marmite and dark fruits (a bit of prune mostly). Following this is a hint of molasses, walnut and a herbal note towards the end. Overall this Stout reminds one of brews like Theakston Old Peculier – but a bit more muted in the aroma. That was a tasty brew, let’s hope Oyster Stout has some of that magic. 8/10.

T: Flavour is decent but let down by texture [shhh! We’ll get to that next]. Forward with the dark fruit/Marmite/molasses characters, mid palate comes on more chocolate than the expected walnut, and the finish is dry and slight herbal bitterness. The flavour profile is clean and easy-going, great we like that. 7/10.

M: Here is where Oyster Stout is let-down: Too watery. I understand that Stouts can be watery at the ≤ 4.2% ABV mark, but this is a brew at 4.5% needs less of this characteristic. Ironically the body itself is mid to light as you would expect and the carbonation is a classic UK pub light-borderline-flat. 5/10.

D: Overall this beer is a decent English stab at a Sweet Stout. The dark fruit slant makes it taste more like the progeny of an Old Ale and Stout, which at least gives it a place in this overcrowded beer market. Some lactose or oats would really help out the body, but apart from that this is an easy-drinking OK Stout. Availability and price aren’t great here in Australia, if this was canned (with nitro), easily accessible, and cheaper it would definitely be a regular beer in my fridge… that’s a freebie there for Marston’s (you can thank me with beer). 7/10.

Food match: “Oysters” way too obvious… beef casserole with crusty bread – there!

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Tuatara Black

Total score: 8.2/10 Vanilla1 Barley1 Coffee1 Tulipglass1

From thee mighty venerable dragon-slaying (in the lizard that they are named after sense) New Zealand brewer [bruwa!] Tuatara comes this toasted malt “Black”. I always get excited when I review a new New Zealand craft brew – more so with Tuatara, who tie for me with Yeastie Boys as best NZ brewer EVA! Black is no exception to the giddy anticipation – I could hardly wait to crack open this lizard and guzzle it into my gizzard with a blizzard… err, going on… outside… Eddie Izzard [had to keep the rhymes going Yo].

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Black like my heart, the way I like my Stouts, with a nice 1 cm tan cappuccino foam striding atop the beast that is this brew… at least until I taste it and tell if it is a beast [of course!]. 8/10.

S: Roasty, toasty and sweet with cereal grains milling about kicking dust into the air like some gang of high school delinquents… I approve of this delinquency as I have another whiff… a slight coffee bean note, a big perfume note… vanilla perhaps? Regardless it is an enticing aroma – but we all know the story about the NZ beer with the great fragrance that didn’t live up to its promise – I’ve told this story a few times before. I have faith in Tuatara though, unlike Epic. 9/10.

T: The flavour comes across a little more muted than the bouquet, but not much, and a hell of a lot more roasty – with notes of: Roasted coffee bean, toasted malt [that’s an easy one – it’s printed in large friendly letters on the front of the bottle], light smokiness, vanilla… more vanilla, some vanilla, did I mention vanilla? [yes, shut up!] some earthiness that I find in almost every good Aussie craft beer, and a slight herbal hop finish. This is one page turner of a Stout – I’m pretty hooked, it’s no FBS but it’s got me thinking about Stouts, the universe, and everything else*. 8/10.

M: Medium bodied with a light but dense enough-if-you-give-it-a-chance carbonation. An almost boo-yah performance. 8/10.

D: This is one brew that makes me think of Founders Breakfast Stout (or FBS to the uninitiated) in all the good ways – what FBS is to BSs this Stout is to NZSs – it has the right combination of flavours and I’m trying really hard to find a fault with it… perhaps a slight bit under-flavoured for a 7% Stout? Nope, not good enough, this is a world class Stout, well done Tuatara. 8/10. FYI: Forgoing the food match for cigars – hope you understand. Btw: Cubans.

*Douglas Adams fan/me = Obvious.

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Exit #007 Smoked Stout

Total Score: 8.6/10 Wood1 Smoke1 Earth1 Nonicpint1

Who doesn’t love a Smoked Stout? Probably salmon because it reminds them of where they may end up if caught [that is in a smokehouse, not a Stout… that gives me an idea for a new beer style – Salmon Stout… patent pending! Anyway, carry on me]. Err, yes me. *whispering to reader* Geez that was awkward, that guy gives me the creeps. *end whisper* So yeah, coming to Exit – as you may or may not recall their Milk Stout (the creatively named “#003”) was très bien to put it lightly or a f**king sweet! (to put it not so lightly just in case you needed a second option on the putting of it). Seeing as how every time I praise a beer it mysteriously sells out at Plonk I decided to give their #007 James Bon, err, Smoked Stout a try.

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Pours a deep dark inky black, like a squid took a defensive manoeuvre in my glass, with an 8mm (yes we are measuring in millimetres now, wow us) tan head that quickly fades away to a thin lace ring. Should this be packing a head of some sort? Yes. Do I care? Not really. 7/10.

S: Why oh why did I shave and put aftershave on before this review? Oh well. Even through the dense thicket of my manly aftershave with the tiger on the bottle I can still pick up hickory smoked wood, sweet molasses malt and an earthy/peaty note in the background. 8/10.

T: Hell. Yes. This is the stuff that log cabins with embers slowly dying in the fireplace are made of: big hickory smoked wood, hints of sweet molasses to shore it up and that lingering earthy/peaty note. It even has hops in it as well, providing that classic counterpoint to sweetness; they add an earthy Australian forest floor flourish, sort of like the flavour you get in most US IPAs only less piney. But the star of the show are the smoke characters – they’re big and uncompromising as they should be. 9/10.

M: Medium(ish!) bodied with some dense but light carbonation. 8/10.

D: I thought the Milk Stout was damn good and this is almost as good as it. Though it is down to my personal preference of sweet over smoked flavours (that said I do love me a good Schlenkerla Rauchbier Urbock) this was the biggest deciding factor, and whilst this has a good earthy/peaty/smoky character it is miles behind the smoke complexity of a Schlenkerla brew. Final word? Continue buying up all the #003 Milk Stouts you can mysterious person who lives in Canberra and happens to like all the beers I rate highly – I’m a coming for those brews! 9/10.

Food match: Whatever food you can find in the pantry of your log cabin.

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Viking Black Death Beer

Total Score: 6.95/10 Oyster1 Coffee1 Smoke1 Nonicpint1

This ominous sounding Black Death Beer comes from the Viking Brewery in Iceland. Now the other brew I had of theirs – Viking Lager, was indeed a lacklustre beer, but I have heard many good things, whispers from men with long hair and big beards who may or may not have been Icelandic… or Danish… or craft beer geeks… either way lately I’ve had a massive Stout craving and I’m hoping this relatively well-priced Icelandic brew can subside my latest Stout-lust with its roasty charms.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Presents a deep, dark, murky brown sea of Stout with a thin mocha lace that resides to a ring that leaves me wanting for a beautiful nitro can consistency… oh well, can’t really hold it against Viking for not using a draught widget can I? 6/10.

S: Aroma is a promising mélange of roasted coffee bean, oyster, hints of smoke and forest berries (sort of has a Crowberry aroma to it – we all remember Crowberries from my review of HaandBryggeriet’s Kreklingøl – the beer that destroyed my last keyboard). The nose is more dry and smoky than sweet. 7/10.

T: Intriguing, that oyster character really comes through with a salty/meaty (umami) flavour upfront. Following this is: roasted coffee, smoke and dry wild berries in the finish… it’s not quite a Germanic/Japanese looooong dry finish but it’s also not far off it. The saltiness of this beer automatically singles the experience out – salty brews are fairly rare IMO… definitely a beer that makes you go “Hmmm”*. 7/10.

M: Lacking in body with a mid to light wateriness unbecoming of a decent upstanding Stout but oh well, with a light carbonation. 5/10.

D: Overall not a bad effort considering, you know, Iceland and all that… though I must say Iceland compares badly to its Nordic cousin (that mystical place they call: Norway – the nor-est of ways) with brewers like HaandBryggeriet pumping out champion brews such as Norwegian Wood. Which coincidentally is the brew that Black Death Beer reminds me most of, it’s just not as good I’m afraid. 8/10.

Food match: This is one Stout that I would recommend with seafood… specifically: oysters, mussels and scallops.

*“Yeah!” (if you can guess that obscure 90’s music reference I will buy you a beer!)

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Murphy’s Irish Stout

Total Score: 5.45/10 Barley1  Coffee1 Chocolate1 Nonicpint1

Murphy’s Irish Stout or “the Guinness of Cork” is one of the main rivals to the classic Guinness Dry Irish Stout (the other being Beamish). Guinness was itself for many years my beer of choice at the pub [this was about 13 years ago now, yikes!], so let’s give Murphy’s another look (I did drink it in Cork many years ago).

Poured from a 500ml nitro-can into a 500ml “mini” Stein glass (yeah, yeah, I need to get a traditional pub pint glass already) [now have a nonic pint].

A: Deep dark ruby (yes Irish Stouts are actually ruby coloured – they just look black), poured a perfect 1.5cm white head that leaves rings to the glass as I drink – a perfect looking Dry Irish Stout. 8/10.

S: Roasted Barley, espresso coffee and a certain sweetness – I would dare say smells like raw sugar, but of course there is no added sugar to this product. I’m not getting any typical Macro brewery “metallic” odours, which is great. 7/10.

T: Roasted Barley and a coffee flavour are the big winners here. Perhaps also a hint of Chocolate. The sweetness is present, as is the Macro metallic tang (disappointing, but it could be from the can). The major letdown (and I’m not sure if they have changed their recipe or my tastebuds have just gotten old) is how watery this beer tastes. 5/10.

M: Everything is normal in this department except how watery this Ale is… goes down without a fight one might say. One thing I do really like about this beer is the nitro-can. Why aren’t there more nitro-cans out there? I think it makes a huge improvement over other beers in both the appearance and the mouthfeel and I can’t wait till more brewers start packaging this way. 4/10.

D: Extremely drinkable – mostly due to the watery nature of the beverage, however it is nonetheless also its downfall in my eyes – I don’t want a beer that is no challenge to drink. I like it when my tastebuds go on a journey. If I want water I just drink it from a tap. This is one I would class as a session beer. 5/10.

Food match: Meat pie, stews, casseroles or bangers and mash (with a nice heavy gravy).

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