Balter Black Metal Disco

Total Score: 6.55/10 Coffee1Barley1Chocolate1Nonicpint1

The latest from Balter Brewing is an interesting creature in their line-up: Obviously it’s a Stout – and Balter have thus far shied away from black beers, also it’s not a style one would generally associate with the surfing craft beer drinking community – which Balter has been aiming for from day dot, it’s in a 500ml can instead of their regular 375ml cans – so the packaging has changed somewhat too, and lastly it doesn’t have the style in the name: Black Metal Disco… in Balter terms that’s a big change. However the one thing they have always been known for (in my eyes at least) is brewing smooth easy-drinking beers that less challenge and more ease you into that wet sloppy embrace of inebriated delight, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon with BMD.

Poured from a 500ml can into a nonic pint.

A: Black and murky with some nice dense bubbles forming on the bottom of the glass – that bodes well for a creamy Stout. Head is beige-borderline-tan and soon drops back from 1 centimetre to a thin layer. She looks alright. 7/10.

S: Toasted/roasted barley character from the get-go, touch of chocolate, espresso notes lingering in the background – yep, she’s a Stout alright. Compared to most Sweet Stouts the sweetness is more balanced than usual, there’s a roasted espresso hop character in the finish. It’s only lacking in a bit of complexity and what I like to call “OMPFH”, however Balter tend towards softer brews in general anyway. 7/10.

T: As noted above: Toasted/roasted barley character, touch of chocolate, espresso notes, and towards the finish more of a red coffee cherry flavour – dry and coffee infused bitterness. Here in the flavour department it comes across too easy-drinking, and well… bland overall. Much like the Alt-Brown this is sorely missing complexity and outright flavour. Still it’s hard to stay mad at a flavour profile that is this inoffensive. 6/10.

M: Mouthfeel is alright, mid to heavy, a touch watery, with a dense but almost flat carbonation – it’s a beer that would nitro up really well, and I suspect the reason why people raved about it on tap is because it probably WAS nitro on tap. 7/10.

D: Second major swing n’ miss for me from Balter, however they were simply doing what they do: a rather inoffensive, easy-drinking surfy brew. Make of that what you will, I’m personally not a fan of their beers – they’re far too entry-craft for me, but I can see what they’re doing (and why) and I don’t dislike it. 7/10.

Food match: Meat pie this mother up… that sounds weirdly wrong. Pie it.

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Bacchus Brewing Timmy Ho’s Double Double

Total Score: 6.85/10 Coffee1BrownSugar1Chocolate1Tulipglass1

Been looking forward to this one since… well, since last week when it came in to my local Black Sheep Bottle Shop (at Stafford, QLD). Still feels like a long time to be waiting to crack open a Bacchus brew as they have so much creativity poured into them – as I mentioned last time round they’re like the Australian Mikkeller, and I love Mikkeller (any craft beer aficionado worth their salt loves Mikkeller!). So this is one that I’m really looking forward to as an out-and-out coffee snob: Timmy Ho’s Double Double, i.e. double cream, double sugar – if it turns out to be both of those then it is game/set/match Bacchus.

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Deep dark brown with a smattering of black body and a wafer thin tan to mocha head on top. Hard not to be drawn in by such an ominous appearance – I do love Stouts for that reason – so dark: Like the heart of Africa it beats and stirs up primal urges before releasing its intoxicating fragrances. 8/10.

S: Double “Yes! Please and thank you!” bold espresso coffee with red coffee bean characters smacks one across the face with a challenge that one can only reply to with “Moi?”. There are also impressions of brown sugar, demerara sweetness and hints of molasses finishing off this heady Coffee/Milk Stout scent. If there’s one complaint, and it is positive to note that this very same complaint was registered in my review of FBS (a beer that needs no de-abbreviation): It’s a little one-dimensional in the aroma… prepare thyself Doc. 7/10.

T: Unfortunately it’s no Australian FBS… shame because you could really go somewhere with that cachet. Flavours turned out to be a mix between espresso and filter coffee, brown sugar, 70% chocolate and a hint of vanilla. It’s tasty, yes, certainly and indeed, but it needs a bit of something something… actually the flavour is pretty decent – the mouthfeel is distracting though. 7/10.

M: Overtly thin body (mid to light) given the style, with a fizzy carbonation and less density than is needed here. 5/10.

D: This is one beer that really fell on its sword re: Mouthfeel – it really makes a difference with a beer that is heavy/sticky/chewy like FBS and this offering to the beer gods from Bacchus (aka the wine god). Of course flavour isn’t as great as FBS, so it’s not perfect there either. However with a woefully thin and gassy mouthfeel this brew was headed nowhere for me. #mouthfeelmatters 7/10.

Food match: Oats, lots of oats… wait that’s what the beer needed, oh well. Stew!

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Stone Xocoveza

Total Score: 9.4/10 Chocolate1Chili1Clove1Tulipglass1

Sometimes you find a Christmas beer that you can’t wait to open – much like a little liquid Christmas gift to yourself – Xocoveza, Stone’s take on a Mexican hot chocolate with added chilli, cocoa, vanilla, coffee, cinnamon and nutmeg is indeed one of those brews. It’s been sitting in my fridge all ominous but tasty-looking for a fortnight and like an impatient hobbit turned into a foul twisted creature I’ve eyed it off every day thinking “soon my precious!”.

Poured from a 355ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Quite dark, almost black, a chocolate brown body: Like a black man that follows me everywhere, I call him Leon, he’s about half as tall as I am, depending on what time of day it is. He likes to play the timpani, and he is a watercolour. The head is nothing more than a tan lace ring though, still tasty. 8/10.

S: Spicy chilli-cinnamon-nutmeg-oh-my-god-my-brain-is-about-to-explode-with-delight goodness… also noted is dark/milk chocolate with a cacao nib smack down: Damn this whole situation is about to get real chocolaty now, in a good way – nay the best way possible, bring it Xocoveza! 10/10.

T: F%^k yeah!!! Stone have brought the flavour train to tastebud central! I don’t normally get so giddy about a beer but f*#k this is every adjunct listed on the bottle in sublime harmony creating a flavour tour de force. If you wrap your mitts around one chocolate beer this year make it this. All flavours listed on the bottle FYI are all present and accounted for: Cocoa, coffee, chilli, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg – throw in dark/milk chocolate, dark fruit and a woody touch towards the finish. Is it all too much? Surprisingly: No. 10/10.

M: Body is a slight let down, medium though I feel given the style it could use a little bit more creaminess and heft. Carbonation is mid to low and ever-present. 7/10.

D: The most disappointing part of Stone Xocoveza? Finishing the bottle… would love to have had this in a US Bomber (22 oz or 650 mls), all good things must end as they say, however I noted a few more bottles left down at The Archive – a stay of execution perhaps? In summation: I love this beer and want to drink it all year round. Disclaimer: I do love a good Mexican hot chocolate. 9/10.

Food match: Anything Chipotle – chipotle steak, chipotle pork, chipotle cat, chipotle baby panda, chipotle small children, chipotle Apple II computer, chipotle plesiosaurus, chipotle daily-planner – this will do it all.

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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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