Hobgoblin ‘Ruby’ ESB

Rating:

“Hobgoblin is a powerful full-bodied copper red, well-balanced brew. Strong in roasted malt with a moderate hoppy bitterness and slight fruity character that lasts through to the end.”

Glassware: English pint.

Appearance: Pours like a proper English Ale – light mahogany with notable ruby highlights. It forms a thick and creamy two finger head which holds its shape well. Tonnes of thick sudsy lace decorates the glass as it ebbs.

Aroma: Overflowing with candied toffee/toffee apple, sweet dark fruits like juicy raisin, dates/prunes and glazed cherries. The more subtle chocolate notes emerge as it starts to warm…although it’s not straight chocolate, it comes across as fruit & nut and carob. It has a certain Barleywine and or Quad-like character with its ultra sweet residual sugars but it’s nicely balanced by a dose of earthy and spicy English hops.

Flavour: Super rich and complex for a mere 4.5% ABV beer. Again, those Quad-like flavours present with rich toffee, raisin and dark fruits. The subtle chocolate and carob only emphasize this further. What it does really well is it incorporates a distinct bitterness which goes a long way in offsetting the rich sweetness. Nicely balanced yet complex finish which holds on nicely.

Mouthfeel: Slick, gelatinous, chewy. Medium-full body. It drinks a whole lot bigger than the ABV (4.5%) entails.

Overall: Impressive how deep and complex it is but it’s just a tad too sweet and artificially tasting for us. Maybe it needs that extra 6% ABV on top to make it a Barleywine?! It’s certainly worthy but it’s not a return beer.

Moorebeer ‘Mas Cerveza’ Mexican Lager

Rating:

NO COMMERCIAL DESCRIPTION

Glassware: American pint.

Appearance: Super pale light golden pour with a thumb of snow white head. It eventually peels off and leaves wavy lace in its wake.

Aroma: Crisp maxxing. Ultra light and refreshing notes of champagne-esque lemon, zesty lime, fresh herbs like coriander and oregano and just the slightest lick of corn/maize – it comes off more like raw corn cob as opposed to the usual creamed and boiled versions. We kinda prefer it like this too, it’s not as heavy and suits the delicate nature of the beer. More subtle notes of rice crackers and semi sweet honey malt as well. Nice.

Flavour: Liking this straight off the bat. Again it’s ultra crisp, refreshing notes of zesty lemon and lime, fresh herbals and some super subtle cereal grains. The raw corn/maize qualities positioned nicely on the flank. Very mild bitterness midway, leading into an unbelievably easy finish with gentle citrus and herbals drawing out.

Mouthfeel: As we’ve said a hundred times already – it’s crisp, refreshing, light on. Light-moderate body and the 4.2% ABV is right on.

Overall: We weren’t actually expecting too much from this but it’s right up there with some of the better Mexi Lagers we had during the summer. Solid drop.

50/50 ’23 Eclipse – EC-12′ BA Imperial Stout

Rating:

“Now in its 16th vintage, 2023 Eclipse is our rich Imperial Stout aged to perfection in whiskey and spirit barrels. All Eclipse starts with the same base beer bringing hints of dark chocolate, espresso, and a smooth complexity, with each barrel treatment delivering its own unique character after a minimum of 180 days aging. EC-12 is aged in Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Barrels [Elijah Craig 12yr].”

Glassware: Snifter.

Appearance: Impenetrable black with a finger of brown foam perched on top. Reasonably well retained with lace rings marking each sip as we go.

Aroma: EC-12… interesting name for a distillery. Then we realised it’s just an abbreviation for Elijah Craig (Heaven Hill) – one of our favourite American Bourbon distilleries. The ’12’ obviously denotes its amount of years in barrel. Again, this is a Bourbon we’ve never tried so we’re keen to get stuck in. Gorgeous oak-drenched toffee/caramel, dark fruits, vanilla, Oriental spice i.e cinnamon, clove, nutmeg. The rich Stout base definitely propping up the cocoa in the Bourbon too.

Flavour: As usual the delicious base Stout offers the four-to-the-floor goodness of coffee, chocolate, roasted grains and molasses. And as per usual (for the Eclipse Stout range) the selected Bourbon infuses beautifully with its charred oak, toffee, vanilla and spice. Quite a distinct booze burn though, at times a little astringent as it finishes roasty yet sweet, spicy and oaky. Good length on it too.

Mouthfeel: Similar to all the others in that it’s surprisingly slick and oily with a medium-full body. The 12.9% ABV is discernible as expected.

Overall: We’re not totally blown away by it. Yes it’s a solid BA Imperial Stout but the whole range seems to be lacking the finesse of previous vintages.

Montmorillon ‘Brune’ Coffee Brown Ale

Rating:

“Intense notes of chocolate and coffee for a beer with character! A tasting beer full of greed, sweetness and surprise!”

Glassware: English pint.

Appearance: Solid black pour with just a skerrick of light cutting through at the foot of the glass. It struggles to produce much head and then immediately disappears. Zero head. Zero lacing.

Aroma: We weren’t really sure what to expect from this. We’ve been told it’s a Brown Ale from one and a Coffee Porter from another. French beer has always been very hit and miss so this was certainly a risky purchase. First whiff is pretty decent though. Lots of chocolate, cherry, plum, creamy vanilla, toffee, red currant and sponge finger. Kinda smells a bit like a black forest cake. Subtle coffee coming through too. Not too shabby.

Flavour: The depth falls away a little bit here but it’s still fairly well structured. Like the aroma it’s mostly chocolate, cherry, jammy red fruits and subtle coffee tailing in later in the piece. Some delicate spice like cinnamon, clove and pepper here and there. A soft earthiness also develops as it sets up for a bittersweet and mildly roasty finish that lingers nicely.

Mouthfeel: Slick, oily, but just a tad too thin. The lack of Co2 doesn’t help either. Medium body. The 8% ABV is pretty well hidden.

Overall: We probably changed our mind five times during this review. In the end it’s actually a half decent drop. Certainly an acquired taste though, and one we most likely won’t return to.

Fieldwork ‘Seagazer’ NZ IPA

Rating:

“It was 2005 when ships were leaving the South Island of New Zealand with Nelson hops destined for the west coast of the States and eventually into some of the greatest beers of all time. Inspired by our favorite eponymously named IPAs and the ridiculous IPAs coming out of Middle Earth, Seagazer packs in all of that stinky Nelson goodness in a package with very little malt flavor at all and a surprising and assertive bitterness that tends to be missing from IPAs with noses as rocket-fueled with tropical flavors.”

Glassware: IPA.

Appearance: Relatively clear golden-yellow pour with a big and frothy three finger head forming on top. It retains well and leaves an absolute smattering of lace on the glass.

Aroma: We’re seeing NZ IPA, we’re seeing Nelson Sauvin, we’re seeing Fieldwork on the can…and it’s just frustratingly subdued. The magnificent Nelson qualities still present its aromatic greenery and kinda tart, vinous notes still. Not even a lackluster aroma can keep this hop down! Unripened passionfruit, gooseberry, lychee, tomato vine, freshly cut pineapple and shallot come forth. Very little in the way of malt. Maybe a hint of biscuit and rice crackers?

Flavour: We’ve been leaning more towards the West Coast style since the pour but it’s pretty much confirmed now. Crisp, ultra green Nelson goodness upfront. Herbal, piney, vinous. A decent bitterness kicks off midway but it tapers off as quickly as it comes as the more tart, funky and vinous characters develop late and roll into a semi-dry, semi-bitter and herbaceous finish which lingers.

Mouthfeel: Smooth and well rounded initially but a wee bit bitter and dry in the swallow. Medium body, slightly flatter Co2 than expected. The 6.8% ABV gives some bite but it’s fairly well concealed.

Overall: We’ve had far better NZ IPA’s before. We like that they took the No Coast route as Nelson Sauvin really is the ultimate versatile hop. We really haven’t been all that impressed with this latest shipment from Fieldwork though. They certainly haven’t been the 9’s and 10’s we’re used to.

Fieldwork ‘Waimea Juice’ Hazy IPA

Rating:

Our southern hemisphere juice series slowly keeps growing with its latest addition of Waimea Juice. Quite possibly one of our favorite hops of the decade, we’ve found that it plays amazingly well with heavy hitters like Citra and Mosaic; but we’ve also found it makes a remarkable single-hop all on its own. This hop is fully capable of the juice but with some seriously impressive west coast-centric tendencies, piling on with complex notes of freshly squeezed tangerine juice, kumquats, white grapefruit, pomelo wedges, mango puree, pineapple flesh, and a hefty dose of pine needle oil.” 

Glassware: IPA.

Appearance: Pours a gorgeous light pastel orange with a thick and creamy two finger head. Good retention and lacing on the glass.

Aroma: Not what we were expecting. At first the typical NZ hop accents were missing and it was throwing out a lot of thick stone fruit sweetness i.e apricot, rockmelon, papaya. But slowly the ultra green, oily, piney and resinous characters start to bleed through. That’s kinda where it ends though. Nice bready malt bill to it – crusty, doughy, semi sweet. It’s a fine aroma, it just doesn’t strike us as much of an NZ IPA.

Flavour: Once again we both have dumbfounded looks on our faces. The initial flavour is weird. The closest thing we can come to flavour-wise is an orange zooper dooper with a twist of funky, unripened passionfruit. Throw in some candied lemon and pine needle and that about sums it up. Actually, add a fair whack of herbal citrus to that – lemongrass, lemon thyme and rosemary. Nice smooth finish with good length.

Mouthfeel: Creamy, velvety, well aerated. Medium body and finely carbed. The 6.6% ABV is well behaved.

Overall: Don’t know where we sit with this. We weren’t all that familiar with Waimea hops so maybe this was a good crash course into the characteristics of this hop. Not bad.

Steen Brugge Dubbel

Rating:

“Steenbrugge Dubbel Bruin abbey beer is a brown beer with a straightforward, malty-caramel character and a fruity, lightly smoked yeast aroma combined with the subtle Bruges “gruut” blend of herbs and spices, with an emphasis on cinnamon. Topfermentation beer with secondary fermentation in the bottle. The secret of Steenbrugge abbey beer is the unique “gruut” blend of herbs and spices, which gives the beer its delicious flavour. Every town used to have its own beer, each with its own individual character. In Bruges that character was determined by a blend of herbs and spices that brewers were obliged to purchase from the city’s herbs and spices shop, known as the “Gruuthuse”. In Steenbrugge Dubbel Bruin this medieval tradition is continued.”

Glassware: Trappist goblet.

Appearance: Deep burgundy pour with a short tan head settling in on top. Excellent retention and healthy lace work on the glass as we imbibe.

Aroma: Hitting those traditional Belgian Dubbel traits beautifully. Super malty, yeasty, spicy, a rich sweetness and fruitiness. We’re always in awe at how they manage to balance the intensity of the flavours so well. Deep malt-driven fruitcake, hot cross buns, candi sugar, raisin, cinnamon, clove, fermented plums, toffee, raw sugar, fig and sarsaparilla also coming through. Just to name a few!

Flavour: We must admit that after a few sips there’s no questioning its authenticity…with its deep richness and well balanced sweetness, but it seems to be lacking a little in the ester department. Not a whole lot of clove, banana or even much of the dark fruit components. Just feels like it’s lacking some depth. Still getting the dry roasty notes, nutty, toffee, doughy and sugary sweetness right through to the finish.

Mouthfeel: Slick, smooth, but a tad too thin for our liking. It just doesn’t grip the way other Belgian brewed Dubbels do. Medium body, low-ish Co2. The 6.5% ABV slots in nicely.

Overall: Didn’t mind it. We felt it lacked a little in a few certain departments. Enjoyable? Yes. Would we return to it? No.

Fieldwork ‘Destination Unknown’ Hazy Double IPA

Rating:

“Introducing from the dark depths of the east bay, Destination Unknown Double IPA. A Cadillac-sized hop bomb that cruises the streets of Berkeley leaving notes of grapefruit oil and honeydew melon in its wake. Pouring this beer on Shattuck, its hazy body looks like the fog rolling off of the bay with a head of hop resin that dissipates just as you hit Durant. As you slide past Sproul Plaza and the smell of patchouli wafts by you find refuge by planting your nose in the glass and inhaling a ridiculous amount of Mosaic hop-induced notes. Fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, ripe melon, lychee, blueberries, papaya, fruit salad, and copious amounts of pot.”

Glassware: IPA.

Appearance: Pulled this pour up a bit shorter and thankfully we did coz a few big chunks of sediment just managed to get into our glass. We’re most likely missing out on some extra haze because of it but we’d prefer less haze than a glass full of floaties. Slightly fizzy two finger head which quickly dissipates. Lots of lace as it ebbs though.

Aroma: Pow! Now this is more like a Fieldwork aroma. Space Maze was extremely muted in comparison to this. It’s a Mosaic-bomb and how sweet it is. Overflowing with fruit salad notes then it’s backed up by strong wafts of sappy resin, pine needle, citrus rind, cannabis and aniseed. It wasn’t really all that dank at first but as it settles the dank really heats up. Diggin’ this!

Flavour: IPA heaven. It has a slight old-school vibe which we’re liking. Probably from the dank, piney resins and weedy notes. Take us back to 2012! The big fruit salad characters encompass the palate, bringing everything from pineapple and mango to grapefruit and strawberry. Nice fluency into the fruity, piney and oily finish. Good length too.

Mouthfeel: Mostly smooth but with a tickle of bitterness. Medium body and finely carbed. The 8% ABV is incredibly well buried.

Overall: Strikes us as a bit of a ‘no-coaster’. Has a bit of East and West happening. Excellent display of the Mosaic hop too. We thoroughly enjoyed this one.

Staropramen Unfiltered

Rating:

“Staropramen Unfiltered was envisioned as a Czech version of wheat beer – distinguished by unique taste coming from a hint of coriander. Though it goes best with lighter foods like poultry and fish, the richness of flavour unleashed in each sip makes Unfiltered a perfect companion for all sorts of gastronomic explorations.”

Glassware: English pint.

Appearance: Wow! Pours like a Hazy IPA. Kinda golden orange with a heavy haze. It caps off with a thumb of snow white head which slowly peels off. Nice wavy lace clings to the glass as it subsides.

Aroma: Quite a ways different from the original filtered version. Our first thoughts are that it’s much more yeasty, the malt profile displays a lot more sweet doughy qualities and the hops, although the closest component to the filtered version, offer soft orchard fruits and a fresh herbal scent. Reminds us of fresh squeezed apple juice. Pretty much smells how it looks we guess.

Flavour: We can taste the original filtered version in it. That classic crisp and clean base seems, well, not destroyed but certainly tampered with when the yeasty, juicy sweetness and doughy malt is thrown over the top of it. Call us purists but the original is always the best. The finish is just too yeasty and funky for our liking.

Mouthfeel: Much fuller, chewier, but still super smooth. Still has a nice crispness to it. Moderate-medium body, good Co2. The 5% ABV is nicely positioned.

Overall: It’s a pretty solid no from us. It’s just not what we’re after from a Euro Lager. We’re not even sure what kind of Lager drinker would prefer this over the original. We just don’t understand it. Baffling.

Budweiser Budvar ‘Budêjovicky’ Czech Lager

Rating:

“Budvar Original Czech Lager in 500mL cans is the epitome of Czech brewing heritage. The O.G. Budweiser boasts a rich historical pedigree, offering a perfect golden hue with prominent malt aromas and flavours. With each sip your palate is treated to a delightful interplay of big maltiness and mild bitterness, making it obvious why this beer is considered one of the best lagers in the world. With over 700 years of brewing excellence, each sip delivers a refreshing, crisp experience that defines the greatness of this Lager beer.”

Glassware: Footed flute.

Appearance: Strikingly bold golden amber and probably one of the clearest beers we’ve ever seen. You could literally read a book through the glass. A thumb of frothy white head on top gradually recedes and settles to a fine film. Not a great deal of lace but enough to detail the glass on its way down.

Aroma: Pure European Lager goodness. We recall on very fond memories at an institution of a venue named The River Inn at Thredbo. We used to finish the day with at least 3 or 4 pints of this and there was no other beer that could beat it. The glory of Saaz! Herbal, earthy, spicy, grassy. Just the right amount of boiled veg/creamed corn. Plus it has the right amount of sweetness and grain from the malt too.

Flavour: Liquid gold. Pretty much a mirror image of the aroma – Noble hop spiciness, herbals, florals and earth balanced by the crisp sweetness and delicate savoury notes of the malt. The perfect amount of bitterness from the beginning all the way through to the clean and snappy finish.

Mouthfeel: Crisp, clean and light on. Still offers something to chew on which we love. Mild-moderate body, perfectly carbed. The 5% ABV is right on the money too.

Overall: Hands down one of the best Lagers in the world. Nothing else needs to be said.

Fieldwork ‘Space Maze’ Hazy IPA

Rating:

“It’s borderline unnerving how fast Strata hops broke through from obscure experimental hop to absolute stalwart of all variations of IPA. This hop can do it all, and in Space Maze it plays the perfect juice-maker. Dropping juicy hits like it’s name is Biggie, Strata lays down massive notes of strawberry astronaut ice cream, passionfruit curd, fresh smashed raspberries, riesling grapes, sugared grapefruit wedges, mango puree, lime zest, papaya, and the stickiest of the ickiest weed. With minimal bitterness and a sticky sweet mouthfeel, Space Maze is equal parts razzmatazz smoothie and nouveau IPA.”

Glassware: IPA.

Appearance: It was pouring a nice amber orange with moderate haze until a bunch of sediment screwed it all up. It’s one of our biggest gripes with Hazy’s. Anywho, it forms a creamy half-inch head which leaves magnificent lacing on the glass.

Aroma: Pretty tame for a Fieldwork IPA. The scent it’s giving off is decent though – mildly sweet, tropical, juicy, kinda resinous and piney. Definitely getting sweet orange citrus, tangerine, ruby grapefruit, subtle stone fruits and your typical American two-row qualities i.e delicate sweetness, nutty, grainy/husky. Not bad.

Flavour: Somewhat follows on with this certain sweetness it carries. Maybe it’s just a mixture of the tropical fruity hops and the sweeter malt bill? It’s probably also emphasised by the fact that the sweeter fruits from the hops dominate – orange, peach, pineapple, melon. The grainy/husky malts underlining it all as it finishes rather smooth and dry.

Mouthfeel: Well rounded, silky, a fine sparkly carbonation. Medium body and the 7% ABV is pretty well concealed.

Overall: Not totally blown away by it but it’s a tidy and well structured Hazy. A fine example of what the Strata hop can offer.

50/50 ’23 Eclipse – Garrison Brothers’ BA Imperial Stout

Rating:

“Eclipse: a world-wide phenomenon straight from our brewery in small town Truckee. It starts with our award winning Totality Imperial Stout, and then spends 6 months in a variety of barrels specially curated  by our talented brew team, often finished with some specialty flare that will knock your socks off. Imperial Stout aged in Garrison Brothers Texas straight small batch bourbon barrels.”

Glassware: Snifter.

Appearance: As anticipated, it pours a menacingly dark black with a short brown head emerging on top. Steady reduction and fairly minimal lace clinging to the glass as it ebbs.

Aroma: Another Eclipse addition, another American Bourbon distillery unearthed. Apparently they’re Texas’s oldest craft distillery (opened 2004) and ardent Bourbon fans seem to compare it a lot to Buffalo Trace. The rich Stout base, again, provides the perfect framework for this Bourbon to do its thing. We’re getting the typical caramel/toffee leading out. Backed up by tobacco/cigar box, toasted coconut, five spice and brown sugar.

Flavour: Oh wow there’s a notable sweetness to it. A solid roasted/smoky element and an overall spiciness that all comes together really well. Obviously (almost) all of their Eclipse series beers blend well with their respective barrels but this one in particular blends especially well. The sugary sweetness, caramel/toffee, coconut, spice and hints of earthy tobacco find their own counterpoints in the base Stout and the result is an incredibly well balanced, sweet yet roasty, smooth and silky finish which goes the distance.

Mouthfeel: Dense but surprisingly inoffensive for its size (12.5% ABV) and immaturity. Low-ish Co2, full bodied.

Overall: We really liked it but it probably still sits in between Laws and Frey Ranch in our opinion. Laws is still the best expression at this stage.

Timothy Taylor’s ‘Landlord’ English Pale Ale

Rating:

“The drinkers’ favourite, a classic pale ale with a complex citrus and hoppy aroma. It has won more awards than any other beer, winning both CAMRA Champion Beer of Britain and the Brewing Industry Awards Gold Medal four times.”

Glassware: English pint.

Appearance: Pours a gorgeous bold amber hue and holds a sturdy two finger head. Excellent retention and equally excellent lace work as we go.

Aroma: Another edition to the “we can’t believe we haven’t reviewed this before” files. This beer has literally graced our fridges dozens of times over the past 15 or so years and not once has it crossed our minds to review it. Well here we go. Hallmark British Pale Ale features of caramel, sweet doughy bread/brioche, toast, marmalade, mandarin, orchard fruits and somewhat nutty and woody malt notes. Brilliant.

Flavour: Drinks almost exactly how it smells – a delicious sweetness washes over the palate but it’s kept in check by a perfectly integrated bitterness. It’s genius coz as it progresses that caramel sweetness and bitterness holds steadfast and it builds up from there with marmalade on toast, brioche, nutty and woody malts, buttered biscuits, a kind of floral-infused honey sweetness and a spicy herbal tea quality to finish.

Mouthfeel: Smooth but with good grip on its way down. Medium body, mild-moderate Co2. The 4.1% ABV is dead set spot on.

Overall: Absolutely brilliant. We were proper bummed when we heard Phoenix are no longer importing these to Australia. We hope another supplier picks them up as it is as good as an English Pale Ale gets.

Shapeshifter ‘Open Your Eyes’ Mexican Lager

Rating:

“Open Your Eyes is a Mexican lager that captures the essence of a sun-soaked summer day. Brewed with maize, it radiates a clear pale yellow hue, offering a crisp and refreshing cerveza experience. With mild bitterness, it’s the perfect choice on a hot summer afternoon, a beer that invites you to savour the sunshine.”

Glassware: American pint.

Appearance: Fizzy two and a half finger white head forms over a clear pale golden body. Good retention and a lot of patchy lace as it subsides.

Aroma: Doing all those good craft Mexi Lager things – nice balance of maize/creamed corn against the rather spicy and citrusy hop backdrop. We’re digging the use of CTZ hops (fun fact: CTZ isn’t actually a single hop it’s a trio of Columbus, Tomahawk and Zeus) as it’s also bringing some added herbal/weedy, soft pine and evergreen qualities. Dry and delicate cereal grains coming through too.

Flavour: Drinks a lot like Corona. Only far better. Come to think of it, it’s probably the closest to Balter’s expression on the craft side of things. Crisp and refreshing entry. The maize and creamed corn accents are front and centre. The hops do a solid job of balancing it out though…providing gentle spiciness and citric acidity as it rolls into a nice and easy finish that entertains the right amount of bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Crisp and light on. Mild-moderate body and carb. The 4.5% ABV is right on the money.

Overall: It’s better than Corona so that’s a good start. We think it’s also better than Balter’s version too but at $10 a tinny it’s a little steep. It is 440ml so we’ll concede that. In summation we’re not completely sold on it but it’s a very quaffable drop.

50/50 ‘2023 Eclipse – Laws Whiskey House’ BA Imperial Stout

Rating:

“Eclipse: a world-wide phenomenon straight from our brewery in small town Truckee. It starts with our award winning Totality Imperial Stout, and then spends 6 months in a variety of barrels specially curated  by our talented brew team, often finished with some specialty flare that will knock your socks off. Laws® Four Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey Barrels: Eclipse aged in Laws® Four Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey Barrels.”

Glassware: Snifter.

Appearance: As black as the ace of spades with a short brown cap over the top. Steady reduction and fairly minimal lace on the glass as it subsides.

Aroma: Smells magnificent. This is more like the 50/50 we know. As usual, the base Stout provides that crucial structure (dark chocolate, coffee, some molasses and leather) but it’s all about the quality of the Bourbon/barrels. Once again it’s a distillery we’ve never heard of but its Bourbon speaks for itself – typical vanilla sweetness, peppery spice, tobacco and a touch of toffee.

Flavour: This is more like it. Smooth yet rich base Stout characters kicking it off. The booze is pretty hot but that can be forgiven considering its immaturity. It doesn’t take long for the world class Bourbon to take shape…coming to the party with a clear peppery spice, creamy vanilla, toffee, earthy cigar box and a hint of oak tannin to punctuate.

Mouthfeel: Dense and silky but refined and surprisingly smooth for its size (12.3% ABV). Full bodied, moderate carbonation.

Overall: It appears that we’ve unintentionally started with the weakest expression of the lot and they’ve progressively gotten better. This one has to be the pick of the bunch so far. Delish!

Hobgoblin IPA

Rating:

“There are IPA’s and there are legendary IPAs. Ours is legendary. Pale golden with orange glints this beer is forged from the finest British hops and varieties gathered from the far-flung shores of the pacific. Prepare for an intense tropical explosion of zesty oranges, grapefruit, honey and juicy bitterness. Winner of the World’s best IPA award. Like we said, Legendary.”

Glassware: English pint.

Appearance: Bold amber pour with a dense and frothy two finger crown. Excellent retention and a smattering of lace decorates the glass on its way down.

Aroma: Bursting with traditional English IPA qualities i.e fruit forward but still harnessing the toasty malt, spice and tangy orange/marmalade that we love so much about this style. Just the right amount of floral perfume and freshly baked bread at the core of it all. A delicate sweetness rounds it all out. Kind of juicy too, we’ve just realised. They call this beer legendary and we see why.

Flavour: Certainly continuing on with the lifted fruity notes – ruby grapefruit, candied orange and lychee/guava. The juiciness comes into play here too. Not in the sense of reconstituted juice but almost. The great thing about it is that it doesn’t get cloying, although it gets quite artificially sweet but the masterful use of toasty and bready/crusty malt along with the bitterness assures the balance of it all anyway.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, slick texture, slightly spritzy Co2. Medium body. The 5% ABV, although low, is right where it should be for a traditional English IPA.

Overall: Another one of those beers that we couldn’t believe we hadn’t reviewed yet. It has been a return-to beer for us for years and deservedly so. It’s a corker.

Staropramen Pilsner

Rating:

“The pleasantly smooth taste and well-rounded flavour of Staropramen rewards your palate with a soft malty flavour, before finishing off with gentle bitterness. Coming from a city of lovable sins that knows everything there is to know about great beer and enjoying life, Staropramen has many stories to tell you – stories about life well spent. Staropramen – taste the pleasure from Prague.”

Glassware: Footed flute.

Appearance: Deep golden pour with full transparency. It forms two fingers of creamy and finely beaded head which retains well. Healthy lacing weaves its way down the glass as it ebbs.

Aroma: Pure Czech goodness. We can’t actually believe it has taken us this long to review this absolute beauty. We’ve been putting them back all summer without even realising. What we love the most about this Pilsner is its impeccable balance while still providing a robust malt bill of honey, white bread/doughy sweetness and a distinctly spicy and grassy hop profile. Supoib!

Flavour: Drinks exactly like it smells too – chock-full of semi sweet honey, white bread/dough, light cereal grains and rice crackers. Straight up Noble hop crispness cuts through the malts beautifully. Just that little bit of extra bitterness which makes these traditional Pilsners so much more appealing than standard Lagers. Nice easy, tidy finish to round it out.

Mouthfeel: Clean, crisp, yet providing a bit more resistance than other interpretations. Moderate-medium body. Perfectly carbed and the 5% ABV is right on the money.

Overall: Pilsner perfection. It’s a tough decision between this and Urquell which is better. Both are as good as each other it’s just Urquell is the more widely known. This is still a brilliant beer though.

Deeds ‘Silent Town’ BA Imperial Stout

Rating:

“Lost in the frozen woods, you stumble upon a small, silent town blanketed in snow. It is eerily silent, with no sounds except the soft crunch of snow underfoot and the occasional groan of ice-laden roofs. An unnatural hush lies over the narrow streets. No smoke rises from any chimneys, no lights in the windows. The peculiar, hollow-eyed locals you encounter peer at you with suspicion. They speak in riddles, gesturing ominously for you to depart before melting into the shadows between buildings. As daylight fades, an unnatural chill permeates the icy air, and a terrifying transformation unfolds…”

Glassware: Snifter.

Appearance: Pours as black as midnight with a short and fizzy dark brown head which rapidly disappears. Zero retention equals zero lacing.

Aroma: Extremely rich but still unbelievably slick and opulent. Good depth and complexity too. We’re getting the Bourbon/oak, rich Stout notes and all but it’s the feature vanilla and nutty almond scents that are just edging out in front. It has this all-encompassing creamy sweetness that acts like icing on a delicious, Bourbon-y, charred cake. Impressive.

Flavour: Brilliant transition from the nose. All of the richness, all of the intense flavours, the high ABV, all of it is so nicely trimmed and tailored into this neat package and it’s truly magnificent how they’ve managed to do it. As it all progresses we taste every little flavour that makes it up – the rich Stout base of smooth dark chocolate and coffee, the Bourbon, oak, vanilla, roasted almonds. All the way through to the drawn out finish.

Mouthfeel: Dense, gelatinous and unbelievably smooth for its size (12.7% ABV). Low-ish Co2, full bodied.

Overall: It’s a perfect beer to throw in the mix as we’ve reviewed a couple of 50/50’s Eclipse Stouts recently. We’ve compared them to Deeds on both occasions and we believe that Deeds comes out on top. Which should come as a massive accolade for them. Superb.

50/50 Brewing ’23 Eclipse – Frey Ranch’ BA Imperial Stout

Rating:

“Now in its 16th vintage, 2022 Eclipse is our rich Imperial Stout aged to perfection in whiskey and spirit barrels. All Eclipse starts with the same base beer bringing hints of dark chocolate, espresso, and a smooth complexity, with each barrel treatment delivering its own unique character after a minimum of 180 days of aging. Frey Ranch Barrel is aged exclusively in Frey Ranch straight bourbon whiskey barrels.”

Glassware: Snifter.

Appearance: Impenetrable black with a short brown head which gradually peels off and forms a collar. Scarce lacing as we go.

Aroma: Smelling more like an Eclipse BA Stout. The previous expression (Old Trestle Sierra) was too much like an Australian Bourbon Whiskey and was bereft of that sweet spiciness we come to expect from a good American Bourbon. This one, thankfully, does have that sweet spiciness, a hint of vanilla and even a flutter of banana runts. Also, blending beautifully with the base Stout – dark chocolate, coffee, light charred notes. Solid!

Flavour: Showing its ABV (12.3%) a bit more than we’d like. In saying that the Bourbon flavours are also very prominent so we’ll take the good with the bad. Definitely getting nice hits of caramel and vanilla behind the rich chocolate and coffee. Eventually coming together later in the piece and then sprinkled with that old burnt vanilla and caramelised malt sweetness in the finish. Excellent length on it.

Mouthfeel: Silky with a good viscosity. Flat-ish Co2, medium-full body. The booze burn could be dialled back a smidge but we ain’t gonna complain

.Overall: Notably better than Old Trestle but we still think Deeds and Boatrocker can brew a better BA Stout. Still, a very respectable one at that.

King River ‘My Ambrosia’ Maibock

Rating:

“Sweet bread and biscuit malt flavour with a restrained toffee character from low-colour crystal malts. We’ve used a uniquely German hop variety providing a subtle and earthy aroma to this strong golden lager.”

Glassware: Half stein.

Appearance: Gorgeous deep golden complexion with a kiss of light red. The head swells to a thumb in height before reducing to a thick overlay. Good retention and healthy lacing as we go.

Aroma: Proper malt bomb, as to be expected from the style. It’s displaying a tonne of sweet malt i.e caramel, brioche, dough, but also a counter balance of toast, buttery biscuits and the mildest hint of peat. As it settles a very delicate yet distinct earthy and grassy hop profile reveals itself. Has to be the one and only Saaz. That’s our guess anyway. It ain’t a groundbreaking aroma but it’s decent.

Flavour: Much more balanced here. It still owns that malt bomb tag but the hop bitterness comes through. Upfront it’s pretty earthy and toasty but it turns a bit cloying as it nears the mid palate. This is where the hops kick off though…at first it’s just the right amount but it keeps intensifying and eventually becomes too bitter in our opinion. The finish is a little untidy and leaves us grimacing.

Mouthfeel: Fairly slick and smooth initially then dry and acrid in the swallow. Medium body, Co2 is a little flat. The 7.2% ABV behaves well enough for its size.

Overall: We’ve been pleasantly surprised with King River’s beers on a couple of occasions but not on this one unfortunately. A bit cloying and untidy in the end.