Sierra Nevada Ovila White Ale

Total Score: 7.85/10 Clove1Lemon1Peppercorns1Chalice1

Oooo, new Sierra Nevada has arrived on our sunny shores – just in time for spring too! It’s another in their Ovila range which are beers brewed in collaboration with the monks at the Abbey of New Clairvaux in California. I had SN’s Abbey Tripel back in 2015 and I wasn’t blown away, it was technically well made but missing that touch of character you get in Tripels like Karmeliet and Westmalle… oh yeah and it was expensive AF at $17 per 375ml bottle. This one sits in more of a reasonable price bracket (I think it was around $30 per 6-er). Anyway, judging by other reviews SN are on to something special here, they really are still a top flight brewer in my books ever since I started drinking craft beer (about 9-10 years ago now… yikes!).

Poured from a 355ml bottle into a Chimay chalice.

A: Pale, almost phosphorescent (spooky!) hazy straw-coloured body with a firm powder-white head that sticks around well. This is a damn fine looking Witbier, damn fine! There’s a density in this head that really draws you in for a hearty gulp. 9/10.

S: Coriander spice and orange peel upfront and ever-present – classic Wit territory. Other notes include lemon, dry cracker, peppery character. Hint of phenolic clove as well. This is all fairly standard Wit stuff, for me this aroma could use a bit more oomph, but otherwise it’s OK. 7/10.

T: This beer immediately reminds me of how Hoegaarden Original tasted before it got bought out by InBev and watered down for the mass market – Ovila White Ale has all the Hoegaarden flavours: Coriander, orange peel, dry cracker, pepper and a hint of clove. Only difference is that this has the dial turned up to 9 (instead of Hoegaarden’s 5). Let this warm up a little and the flavours really come shining through, classy stuff from Chico California. 8/10.

M: Medium bodied, fairly creamy, gotta love that influence from the wheat – it really makes the mouthfeel wholesome. 8/10.

D: Great stuff from SN yet again! This is one of their more subtle brews, but sometimes in subtlety we find great depth – and Ovila White Ale has depth. It’s one that I’ll come back to again as decent Witbiers are not easy to find. Sure Hoegaarden body slams this on price, but put the two together and I’m sure you’d notice a world of difference between them (ones watered down AF and the other tastes like a decent Witbier). Cheers SN! 8/10.

Food match: Lighter fare such as salads, chicken, crumbly cheeses.

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Stone 20th Anniversary Encore Series: 02.02.02 Vertical Epic Ale

Total Score: 8.95/10 Coriander1Peppercorns1Pear1Tulipglass1

As far as “beers at the top of my list to drink right now” go this is #1 – however keep watching this space [not this one: this one:      ] as my #850 review coming up in 3 reviews is a beer I’ve been hunting ever since I heard the name that begins with a “C” and ends in an “N” (easy one for beer nerds). However back to here and now: The label on this talks about how with the original they only brewed 300 cases, and bomber-sized bottles sold on eBay for $1,200 USD! … yep this was an instabuy for me. So far the Stone 20th Anniversary stuff has been a blast, I really enjoyed Citracado – I hope they brew that again, and you know what they say about hope: it springs eternal (but you can get a plumber for that).

Poured from a 650ml bomber-sized bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Hazed goldenrod body, big fluffy white head that likes to hang around for a while before slowly compacting in to awesomeness… I may be somewhat giddy and full of hyperbole for this brew, what of it? 9/10.

S: Belgian yeast may have been utilised in this brew: Coriander, clove hints, pepper, pear ester, orange peel and light banana phenol all over the nose. Aroma is reminiscent of La Chouffe (though La Chouffe isn’t $1,200 USD a bottle – slight overpricing on that original Stone brew much?). Still that’s a good bedfellow to have with La Chouffe, #10 on my all-time list, and a cute Gnome on the bottle to boot! 8/10.

T: Wow, again the La Chouffe similarities continue – though this is more dry (ergo bitter) in the finish. Flavours are: Coriander, clove hints, pepper, pear ester, orange peel and light banana phenol. Finish has a long dry followed by a herbal bitterness. Par for par on flavour with La Chouffe, it’s a dead heat IMO. Really depends on what you’re looking for in a flavour profile, oh yeah and the fact that La Chouffe is year-round and this is a one off… for God’s sake don’t spend $1,200 USD on a bottle of this whale-hunters! Exit the hype train, you have reached your destination. 10/10.

M: Mid to heavy bodied with a medium carbonation… could be creamier. 8/10.

D: It’s rare for anyone anywhere else to be on par with a Belgian brewer, but this Stone is. The original was made back in 2002 too, that was a life-time ago in the craft beer industry, which is a testament to the forward thinking of the brewers at Stone – they had the nous to go head to head with Belgian brewers when others were still figuring out what a Pale Ale was, kudos Stone! 8/10.

Food match: Game on (as in roasted game meats, parsnips, some sort of flan…).

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Birra Baladin Isaac

Total Score: 7.65/10 Coriander1Orange1Clove1Tulipglass1

Birra Baladin again? Yep, it’s #3 in my mixed 5 [read my review of Super Bitter for disclosure ‘n stuff]. So far Nazionale has been top-shelf, Super Bitter was interesting but not mind-blowing awesome, now on to Isaac, which immediately makes me think of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game for some reason… then my mind goes to Flight of the Conchords when Dave suggests that women like three things: “Men in kilts, Southern Comfort, and Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game”. This insight into my crazy sit-com addled mind has been brought to you by Lightspeed Briefs, as seen in your dreams. On to the beer, Birra Baladin Isaac is stylistically Witbier… hmmm, intrigued as to how this will turn out.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Cloudy pale tangelo body with a fairly fizzy (frizzante to the Italians) 2 centimetre white head that collapses to a lace ring yet still shows decent carbonation action… this one might be a three burps brew. 7/10.

S: Birra Baladin don’t cease to surprise with a fascinatingly spicy nose of coriander, nutmeg, mace and orange blossom. Candi sugar adds a big hit of sweetness, and some doughy yeast character comes through as well. At least at this stage this is the closest Birra Baladin have come (for me) to matching the original style. This is a classic Belgian Wit aroma. 8/10.

T: Begins musty/dry with a prominent yeast character that carries throughout the flavour profile. Notes of the above spices: Coriander, nutmeg and mace, along with that orange blossom come through mid-palate. Candi sugar is more restrained than expected. Finish is dry and cleanses the palate well. Balance is up there with some of the best Belgian Witbiers, so Birra Baladin really know their stuff, top notch! 8/10.

M: Really gassy it must be said – too far on this front – I had more than three burps (it was like 8 or 9!). Mid to light bodied, but yeah waaay over-carbed. 5/10.

D: Well so far Nazionale is still my pick of the bunch, but if you want a Birra Baladin that is stylistically as advertised then Isaac is your man. That said I like it how Birra Baladin and Birra Del Borgo come up with their own (sometimes bizarre) takes on established styles… if we can’t experiment with beer what is the point of brewing? So keep being interesting Italian craft brewers, we’re all liking where you’re going, cincin! 8/10.

Food match: A palate-cleansing brew like this would go great with duck.

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Stone & Wood The Forager Witbier 2016

Total Score: 5.55/10 Orange1Coriander1Peppercorns1Tulipglass1

The Forager: Sweet mighty forager, picking berries and wild herbs, jumping from vast redwood to redwood, singing to the heavens “I’m a forager and I’m OK, I sleep all night and I forage all day!”… have I used that Monty Python reference yet? No? Good, it’s in now *crosses item off list*. So Stone & Wood have decided to start releasing beers that are made with ingredients that have been foraged locally in Byron Bay – expect forthcoming beers to be brewed with a hint of cannabis and surf board wax then.

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Hazed very pale straw, I mean there’s very little in the way of colour on this body – which is standard for a Wit, with a thin white lace ring in the glass. Agitated it for head but it was pretty much a “meh!” from the beer, what came about dissipated fairly quickly… on the plus side I won’t be getting any ‘Belgian dip’ from this Wit. 6/10.

S: Nose is quite dry “and how can one smell dryness?” you might ask, well I just can… it’s drying out my nose as I breathe in… shut up! Notes of orange peel, coriander, spicy yeast and something herbal that sticks out (and no it isn’t cannabis)… trying to wrap my head around it but I can’t quite place it – it’s got to be something random like ‘St. John’s Wort’ or ‘Horehound’… or ‘St. John’s Hore’s Wort’, in any case I’m stumped. 7/10.

T: As far as Wits go this one is a bit on the boring side, yes it has the above flavours: orange peel, coriander, spicy yeast, St. John’s Hore’s Wort. However it is all a bit wishy-washy and reminiscent of Hoegaarden – only a lot more expensive. Apart from that it ticks all the Witbier flavour boxes: Crisp; check! Dry; check! Spicy; check! Orangey; check! But I’m over paying way too much for craft beers that can’t even compete with macro beer flavours. 5/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with medium carbonation. 6/10.

D: Far and away Stone & Wood’s weakest effort of a beer, what happened to those guys – they’ve always been pretty decent, but this beer left an $11 hole in my wallet (ergo my heart) and I don’t know if I’ll ever trust another limited release from them after this… the description of ingredients in the next Forager would have to be pretty damn interesting/bizarre/experimental in any case. S&W WTF?!? 5/10.

Food match: Wit stuff – seafood, chicken, salad, chicken salad, salad chickens, etc.

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Mikkeller Cucumber Witbier

Total Score: 8.7/10 Cucumber1 Coriander1 WhiteWine1 Chalice1

It’s hard to go past that wacky-one-man-team known as Mikkeller, a former Math and Physics teacher Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, who hails from the most Danish of countries: Denmark. This Cucumber Witbier, brewed in conjunction with I’m A Kombo (some sort of Danish catering company I believe) has what I would consider an eye-catching label with instructions on how to cap your beer with a cucumber. Needless to say I didn’t follow them.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Chimay chalice.

A: Presents a hazy amber body with a wispy white head that sticks around at about half a centimetre. Looks more like a Pale Ale than a Witbier, but I’m still drawn to it nonetheless. 7/10.

S: This is why I love reviewing beers – to this day I am still presented with new and exciting aromas, tastes and textures, and this Cucumber Witbier has one of the most unique aromas I’ve ever encountered in a beer with; Cucumber (of course, we all expected that) with a distinct note of dill (never encountered dill in a beer before). In the background hints of lime and dry white wine grapes add to the olfactory delight. 9/10.

T: The cucumber becomes less notable in the flavour – it is quite a light flavour to begin with – as the dill, dry white wine, lime take over. Along with this is a tiny bubble gum note, some sweet candi sugar and pepper towards the finish, which is more a vermouth dry than bitter. The aftertaste leaves a pleasant cucumber and dill sandwich taste on the palate. 9/10.

M: Medium bodied with a nice soft carbonation that suits this Wit well. 7/10.

D: Damn this is an interesting brew I’ll have to try again, if I ever see it again. Which I won’t because Mikkeller (usually) only brews single batches, I hate you Mikkeller! But I also love you Mikkeller! Make this beer again and forever and I will keep a spot in my fridge for it. Overall this beer is an oddity in ALL the good ways – a moreish treat for an old beer geek like me, helped along by the fact that I love a good old-fashioned cucumber sandy. 9/10.

Food match: You know what I’m going to say and it is cucumber related.

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Boatrocker Misfit Hoppy Belgian Ale

Total Score: 7.45/10 Peppercorns1 Orange1 Clove1 Tulipglass1

Another Boatrocker beer to review… hopefully it’s not as disappointing as my (slightly redacted) review of their Hop fu[REDACTED]ing Bomb IPA – the IPA that wasn’t. Come on Doc, let’s try focus on the positives – you do like brews that mish-mash Belgium/American styles [I do indeed: Little Creatures Single Batch The Quiet American and HopDog’s An American Werewolf In Belgium being two prime examples] maybe the mercurial Boatrocker can pull off a winner in your eyes? [perhaps… pear hats… mmm, delicious pear hats].

Poured from a 330ml bottle into Duvel tulip.

A: Hazy mandarin (at first I thought tangerine, but it is definitely more of a mandarin) body with wispy white half centimetre head capping it off, like a nice pear hat. 7/10.

S: Ooo! (good “ooo” btw) Nice and spicy aroma upfront, bit of the old cardamom/pepper/coriander seed combo… tasty! Hints of banana, pear and floral hop notes linger on invitingly in the background. If it tastes as good as it smells I might have to recant my former vitriol towards Boatrocker. 9/10.

T: The spices present well in the flavour profile, front to the back of the palate, bringing with them a dry cracker finish. Outside of this the profile is lacking a touch from the outstanding aroma with an orangepeel citric hop character followed by notes of candi sugar and those banana/pear hints. Finish is a mix of dry cracker with bitter orange. Needs a bit more sweetness to balance everything. 8/10.

M: Medium bodied, as expected for a 6.2% ABV brew, with a sharp but dense carbonation. Ticks all the “M” boxes without wowing. 7/10.

D: Overall I am slightly above average but better than “hmm, not bad” suitably impressed succinctly around about the level of “really, I thought as much” absorbed but not captivated by this brew [he said with a non-laconic/cryptic tone]. It is indeed an oddity that much like Icarus – flies close to the sun with wings made, perhaps not of wax, for that fails this beer analogy, but wings made of the delightful flavour of Belgian dry spicy yeast… unfortunately the sun in this analogy melts the delightful flavour of Belgian dry spicy yeast and Icarus, who we’ve replaced in this analogy with Pale Malts, plunges into the ocean, which is now hops. Confused? So am I. 5/10.

Food match: Just to prove that these food match things at the end of my reviews aren’t just pure silliness – Roast Duck. Ha! Bet you didn’t see that one coming.

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Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc

Total Score: 6.85/10 Peach1 Barley1 Lemon1 Chalice1

Yes, yes, I’ve been neglectful in updating my blog again… life and all that… anyway I have (behind the scenes in RL) been drinking the occasional new beer here and there whilst keeping notes on my phone, so here is my review of Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc! I also just realised that I somehow haven’t yet reviewed Kronenbourg 1664 Regular, a surprising omission given its popularity as France’s biggest export beer, oh well another review for another day, now it’s time to get my Blanc on.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Chimay chalice.

A: Presents a hazed straw body with a thin white head… not bad, not great, just a typical Witbier here, move along [said in the style of a police officer]. 6/10.

S: Hmmm, wit(t)y with classic Wit aromas (hints of orange peel and coriander), honey and peaches give it an intriguing new slant before a granular Lager malt chimes in to suggest this may just be a mixture of regular Kronenbourg 1664 and a Witbier done on the sly and with as little effort as possible from the Strasbourg brewery. 6/10.

T: Again with those peaches, which are prominent throughout btw, I’m not personally a big fan of peaches but I do appreciate that Kronenbourg aren’t just rehashing a Hoegaarden-clone. There are definitely some grainy Lager malts reminiscent of original 1664 (review forthcoming!) with a hint of lemon in the finish, which is quite refreshing and lifts this brew from averageocrity (a portmanteau of ‘average’ and ‘mediocrity’ in case you hadn’t worked it out) to allrighteousness (you get the jist). 7/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a medium carbonation. The body is good, heavier than most other Wits. 8/10.

D: And here’s the soundbite: “A refreshing and decent summer beer deserving of any BBQ/backyard cricket* combo.” I will bide my time through the chilling Canberra winter to imbibe this brew next summer, oh yes. 7/10. Total: 6.85/10.

Food match: BBQ stuff… prawns, fish, bits of beef fried on a hot plate, etc.

*A custom in Australia that involves a bizarre ritual where a family member slings a tennis ball at a garbage bin whilst another family member attempts to hit it with a an odd flat piece of 2 by 4 willow across the backyard (but not over the fence into the neighbour’s yard which is “out”).

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