Thursday, 25 October 2012

Red Duck Beer: Amber - Review

A recent visit to Archive in Brisbane's West End saw myself, Nick and Pete (the piss artists formerly known as NM and PF respectively) each grab a 6pack of different beers. The cunning, cash-saving plan was that we'd leave the fine establishment and all swap beers evenly thus enabling all 3 of us to trudge home that evening with 2 of this, 2 of that and 2 of something else.

Nick opted for Kooinda English Red Ale (4.7% abv), I chose Kooinda Milk Porter (4.7% abv) and Pete went for Red Duck Amber (4.9% abv). I'll try and write up one of my loose reviews for each of the Kooinda's soon but this review will be dedicated to Red Duck's Amber...

The review:

I'm all for trying new beers - especially from the lesser-known Australian craft breweries. However, sorry guys, I didn't like this brew.

According to the Red Duck website, it's billed (get it? No? Forget it.) as a full-bodied, British style ale.

Firstly, there was no 'body' to it!

Secondly, there was no Britishness to it either! I'm in pretty good stead - regular visitors to this blog will be well aware that I herald from Blighty and I can confirm that this beer is nothing like I have ever tasted in my homeland.

As you can see in the photo above (click for larger view) it resembles that nasty drop from Gage Roads called London Best. I described London Best as nothing better than "fizzy brown water". Unfortunately, my opinion is the same for Red Duck's Amber. It is overly carbonated (also visible in the photo) and very tasteless.

When poured, the head confirmed the lack of body. It fizzled out in a matter of seconds. Not even long enough for me to focus the camera and take a snap.

Having been readily available from the chaps at Archive who hold all of their bottled stock in high regard (in a very chilled chiller room I might add) I have to say that I'm very disappointed.

The only plus point is that Pete ended up with 2 of these beers and not 6 thanks to our devilish plan to share.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Burleigh Brewing: FIGJAM IPA - Review

Regular readers of this blog will have no doubt noted that my recent purchases of beer centre around 3 letters: I, P and A. This current journey happened to coincide with a new release from Burleigh Brewing Co. - a local(ish)-to-me brewery that has a 'Bit On The Side' department which release limited edition brews every once in a while. 

Following on from Fanny Gertrude's Bickie Beer and Black Giraffe, their latest bit on the side is called FIGJAM IPA...

It was only released a few weeks ago and I was lucky enough to lay my hands on some last week for consumption over the course of my birthday weekend (weekend just gone) and what a lovely gift to myself it was...a real treat indeed...

The review:

I have absolutely no hesitation in slapping 4 stars on this one. FIGJAM is a wonderful IPA!

Presented in the familiar but special 'Bit On The Side Dept' 650ml screen-printed bottle, it pours a light golden colour with a solid white head followed by a good 20 seconds worth of subsequent fine effervescence.

Huge whiffs of fruit hit me. Nothing to put me off - more inviting than anything.

Upon taking the first mouthful of a new beer, I always try and have a clean palate. Often achieved by glugging a few mouthfuls of water. This usually prepares me for whatever the pending liquid gold has to offer. 

The first mouthful of FIGJAM surprised me. It was nowhere near as heavy as I was expecting. It was surprisingly light which makes this IPA very drinkable and thirst quenching unlike many IPA's that have previously made their way past my hop-loving tongue.

I've enjoyed a few big, in-your-face hop explosion types of beers lately. This isn't one of them making this 7.0% abv drop a very sessionable brew ahead of what's promised to be a very warm Queensland summer.

My advice? Stock up on this quickly before limited edition cartons deplete!

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Bar Stuff Episode 3 – Tippler's Tap, Newstead, Brisbane

My previous 'Bar Stuff' post on this blog was all about the future opening of a new bar in Newstead, Brisbane called Tippler's Tap. I promised myself that I would pay Tippler's a visit. After weeks of not being able to get there for one reason or another eventually the day came. Yesterday, Friday 19th October, on my thirty-something birthday.

Nick and I took to public transport to take us from our CBD workplace to Newstead. The day was perfect for a few birthday brews. A sizzling 30 degrees in the City ensured the necessity for a few cold ones.

A quick jaunt through Fortitude Valley on one of Translink's Natural Gas buses followed by a 10 minute walk though suburbia and there we were stood in front of Tippler's Tap. Finally, I'd made it.

We were greeted with the sight of 8 or so people sat outside smiling contently over their beers. Happy clientele is always a good sign. We wandered in past the kitchen and the chef who greeted us with a welcoming smile and a "G'day". We then found ourselves at the bar pondering over which of the 11 beers to choose from (10 taps plus 1 handpump).

I opted for a Matt Armstrong/Bacchus combined effort called Trouble & Strife - a 6.1% Black IPA and Nick chose a Feral Smoked Porter (4.7%). Matt is from The Grizzly Paw Brewery, Alberta, Canada.

We grabbed a table as quick as we could because people started flowing in heavily behind us. This influx of custom was nothing to do with us!

The table that we sat at was bang in the corner and gave us not only a great perspective of the place but also a decent view of the blackboard behind the bar which listed the current tap offerings. This view was essential because our next beer was going to take some planning.

We got quite comfortable on our tall stalls and watched as customer after customer came in through the door. We'd certainly timed our visit right because Carl (Rhodes) served beer constantly for about an hour after we'd arrived. He was serving alone though and it would've frustrated me to have been waiting for a long time at the bar to be served. Nevertheless, I'm certain that all patrons would've had their frowns turned upside down after sipping any one of the beers.

We also noted a fairly large group all order food from the Chicago-style menu and see it arrive at their table within 20 minutes. Pretty good for a busy bar during a Friday lunchtime rush. If we had more time on our hands, we would've eaten too.

Nick's second purchase was off the handpump - Bacchus Bushfire Smoked Rye Schwarzbier (6.2%) and mine was 4 Hearts Oktoberfest Bock at 7.5%.

I want it on record that the Oktoberfest Bock was one of the best beers that I've ever had.

Sadly, due to work commitments, our stay was limited. After all, we had to get a bus back to work. We will definitely be returning and next time hope to take a few more fellas from work along with us.

Tippler's obvious selling point (to me anyway) is the amount of taps and the constant turnover of beers on these taps - similar to The Scratch in Milton. In fact, even while we were there Tap No. 9 finished up and was replaced with a newbie right in front of our eyes. The fact that none of these taps are contracted to a specific brewery is extra appealing.

I highly recommend a visit. I'll be back with no hesitation.

Tippler's Tap, 22 Masters Street, Newstead QLD (07) 3122 9886. 

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Ballast Point: Black Marlin Porter - Review

A couple of months ago (June I think), I stumbled across another US import and luckily it was an IPA. I've mentioned recently that I'm right into IPA's at the moment so I had no hesitation in grabbing some. It was Ballast Point's Big Eye IPA 6.8% abv.

It was great! Extremely flavoursome with hops and, at 75 IBU, very bitter.

And so, upon seeing it's cousin - the Black Marlin Porter - sitting on a shelf a few weeks ago. I found myself pushing an old lady out of the way to get to it. My desperation to take home one of the giant 650ml bottles was far more important than her selection of sherry or whatever it was she was looking at.

The review:

Wow. What an amazing porter!

If you are a porter fan then this will be right up your street. It pours delightfully with a chunky brown head. The American hops and very light chocolate hints balance themselves out perfectly. Each sip was followed by an understated brown malt aftertaste leaving me wanting more of this 6.0% offering. 

The only gripe that I have is that I got stung AU$11.00 for it to find out that Nick only had to shell out AU$7.00 for a bottle a couple of weeks later. Not amused. Stop grinning, Nick.  

Interestingly, the label on the bottle encourages drinkers to combine some Black Marlin with some Big Eye to form a 'Black Eye'. Nice idea. I might just do that.

If you haven't yet tried this, go do it. This must be tried.

Incidentally, if you're wondering what the glass is, it's my 500ml Weihenstephaner glass. Hey, just look at this head.......hmmmmmmm...


Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Karl Strauss Brewing Company: Tower 10 IPA - Review

San Diego based Karl Strauss Brewing Company came to fruition after one of their co-founders, Chris Cramer, was inspired by a pub that he'd visited whilst travelling through this beautiful Antipodean country that I now call home. You can read all about the birth of the brewery and its early years here - well worth a read. A true success story if ever there was one.
I'd stumbled upon a Karl Strauss beer called Red Trolley Ale back in May of this year. It was labelled as a 'red ale'. Previous purchases of beers calling themselves red ales hadn't really set my heart quivering although Ranga Premium Red Ale by Ranga Brewing Co wasn't too bad. Tempted by the impressiveness of other US imports this year, I couldn't help myself and picked up a 6pack. It was good although it didn't make me dash back to the shop to buy more but it did enough to plant the Karl Strauss seed in my mind...
I'm riding an IPA wave at the moment and at the first sight of a Karl Strauss IPA, I immediately grabbed some and they went straight into my shopping basket. Just in case you are picturing the scene, I should confess that I was not wandering around the shops with a little wicker basket ala Little Red Riding Hood
The review:

A classy, hoppy offering this one. Not overpowering like some IPA's can be and nowhere near off-putting either. At 7% abv, this is very easy to drink - there is no full-on alcohol kick.

I particularly enjoyed the light citrussy air to it. The Chinook hops are the reason behind the noticeable grapefruit tones. However, this drop is by no means a fruity number that many beer drinkers like to avoid. It contains minimal fruity characters.

The other noticeable element is the use of caramel malts. The malty after-taste lingers long.

It pours a delightful golden/amber colour with a solid head (see photo above - click for larger view). Carbonation is medium.

I had absolutely no hesitation in opening a second soon after the first. Go get some. No rush. Just make sure you try it some time.

Friday, 12 October 2012

McLaren Vale Beer Company: Vale IPA - Review

Back in 2008, a couple of South Australian beer lovers formed a brewery called McLaren Vale Beer Company and created themselves a brew called Vale Ale - an Australian Pale Ale. Subsequently, over the course of the 4 following years, the brewery has steadily grown from strength to strength and now boasts 4 core beers: Vale Ale 4.5%, Vale Dark 4.5%, Vale IPA 5.5% and Vale Dry 4.5%.
On my current voyage of enjoying various IPA's from around the world, McLaren's newest bottled beer - Vale IPA - made it's way into my beer fridge...
The review:

Quite frankly this is one of the nicest IPA's that I've had the pleasure of drinking. It is very well balanced and I could have easily sipped this all night long. I get the impression that the guys at McLaren Vale REALLY take their time in creating perfection. This drop certainly portrayed the fact that it's creation had been handled with extreme precision.

As you can see above, it pours a very inviting, cloudy, deep amber colour with a solid head that retains itself throughout.

IPA's obviously vary from brewery to brewery and every country seems to have it's own opinion on how an IPA should taste. In this particular instance, McLaren Vale have kept the IBU (bitterness) down to 41 which I believe helps this beer immensely (although if quizzed without knowing, I would've guessed the IBU was higher). Not being forced into a journey of bitterness really does enable the palate to embrace the other notable elements including the fruity/citrussy characters.

It's one for those of you that enjoy a blast of hops too with a combo of 3 hops varieties all from different countries - Galaxy (Australia), Nelson Sauvin (NZ) and Citra (USA).

Go get some ASAP!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Molson Coors: Cobra - Review

Just under a month ago, I wrote about how Cobra had landed in Australia in May of this year. This was great news in my opinion. Even better news was that it took less than a week to find some! In true bloodhound fashion, Nick (aka NM) sniffed some out at a Chapel Hill bottle shop - Vintage Cellars.

Despite being advertised on VOK's website as having an RRP of AUS11.99 for 4 x 330ml bottles, Vintage Cellars are selling them at AU$14 for a 4pack. I can't complain as I reckon this is just about right. That's only AU$3.50 per bottle. In fact, that's a pretty good price considering it's fully imported.

The review:

I do enjoy a nice lager. Not the junk that gets churned out by the millions of gallons per minute - the tasteless, flat kind that seedy nightclubs sell to you in plastic 'glasses' for extortionate amounts of cash. I'm talking about a really nice lager. Cobra is one of those nice lagers.

It's conception came about in 1989 when 27 year old Karan Bilimoria decided that the UK needed a less gassy lager. I think it was a big gamble considering the beer market in the UK was already top-heavy with lagers. Karan's aim was to have a beer available that would compliment all cuisines without leaving the consumer feeling bloated. The idea took off and years later it is widely associated with being the Indian curry eater's choice of beer - mainly because of Karan's Indian roots but also because Cobra was first brewed in Bangalore, India. The importation only lasted for a year or so as brewing started to commence in England at Charles Wells Ltd.

The beer pours an appealing golden colour and, despite the lack of fizz, a sensible head settles. This is a very enjoyable beer with no harsh tastes at all. Everything about it is subtle. At 5.0% abv this is an extremely sessionable beer.

Go grab yourself a curry and indulge in a few of these as soon as possible and as cold as possible.


Friday, 5 October 2012

250 up!

Some of the more astute readers/viewers/occasional passers-by have noticed that over the course of the weekend past, the total number of different types of beer to have passed my lips in UNDER 2 years hit the magical 250 mark!

If you haven't checked out the ever-increasing list on the right hand side of this page, go and have a look...

Any feedback on your experiences with any of these beers is very welcome.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Happy 40th Fran at The Lark, Paddington

Saturday 29th September 2012 was a special day. Not only was it the day to help celebrate my wife's cousin's 40th birthday but the fact that we were to be kid-free for the night was also worth raising a glass to.....and so we did!

I managed to consume 10 very different beers throughout the course of the night. In fact, on this particular evening, I managed to add no less than 7 new beers to my ever-growing list of different beers.

The festivities were to kick-off at Fran & Dave's house at 7.30pm so, inbetween a light evening snack, sorting the kids out for their sleep-overs with relatives and getting ourselves ready in our glad-rags, I opened a bottle of Kooinda English Red Ale (4.7%). What a nice beer indeed. It went down a treat as did its cousin, Kooinda Milk Porter (4.7%) - one of the finest porters to have carressed my taste buds I might add.

We finally hit the road en route to Everton Hills albeit running 20 minutes late. No sooner had we pulled up at the birthday girls' house, hubby Dave offered me a beer. Dave is always an extremely good host. Being an extremely good guest, I accepted his offer and he handed me a Warsteiner, a 4.8% German lager that had somehow avoided my beer list until now.

Right on cue, ever-the-host Dave plopped a DAB in front of me just as the Warsteiner was coming to an end. A DAB is a German pilsner measuring in at 5.0%. In comparison to other Pilsners that I've had, this was very pleasant and accompanied the hot nibbles that decorated Fran & Dave's outdoor setting very, very well.

At 9pm our maxi-taxi driver arrived to shuttle the 9-strong group into Brisbane. Paddington to be precise. Our destination was The Lark. In true man-fashion, there were mutterings amongst the male contingent of a 'traveller' or a 'roadie' - essentially, a beer to take with us for the ride. The 4 of us blokes convinced Dave that it was a good idea to take yet more beer from his beer fridge. He agreed. Dave gave me a James Squire Golden Ale (4.5%) which I thought would do me very nicely indeed for the short hop to Paddington. We got as far as the end of his driiveway before the cab driver yelled out 'No bottles in the taxi please!'. We stood there in the darkness 'necking' the beer whilst the wives club - already on board - looked at us with disdain. Naughty boys.  

Being the inquisitive beer aficianado that I am, I'd checked out The Lark's beer menu earlier in the evening whilst quaffing the Kooinda's. I'd never visited The Lark before but I wasn't let down by the beers on offer at all.

My first selection off the menu was a Lord Nelson Three Sheets Ale (4.9%). A very nice drop for a warm evening sitting outside in the venue's courtyard. A couple of the fellas followed suit. One liked it, one didn't. 

Next for me was a Peroni Rossa (4.7%). Nothing particularly special about this beer but it was easilly drinkable at a table where chat was flowing faster than the cocktail that Fran knocked over.

It was at this stage that I simply had to break the seal. 7 beers in and I had to do it. Enough was enough. Using the toilets gave me a chance to see the rest of the establishment (which is an old converted colonial styled cottage circa 1888). The first floor was an open-planned, comfy, sofa and cushioned filled place to sit and relax. The area was inhabited at the time by a bunch of mates having a grand old time whilst drinking a few beers. Extremely relaxing.

After losing what would've been approximately 2.5 litres of grog down the pan to a Brisbane City Council water treatment facility (and jeez, I felt good) I started to ponder what beer would be next for me. I decided to go for a James Squire Amber Ale (5.0%) off the menu. I'd had it before on a number of occasions but I had a new feeling of emptiness and was ready for the rich malt taste.

I can't lie to you. I was starting to feel like I'd had a few beers by now. The time was 11.30pm and one of the staff kindly prompted us to order a drink if we wanted one more because last orders had been called. There was one beer on the menu that I'd been eyeing up all night - The Alhambra Reserva 1925. Even for it's strength of 6.4%, this beautiful Spanish beer from Andalucia is very gentle on the palate. It was my 9th beer of the evening - I wish it wasn't "Adios!" but our time at The Lark came to an end around midnight.

Apparently, Fran has always been somewhat of a party girl. Loves to dance. Next stop - The Paddington Tavern. I'd never been to 'The Paddo' before. Oh my goodness I don't think I'll ever go there again. I've seen some sights in my time - mainly in London - but this place was baaad. I couldn't decide on whether to have a XXXX or a XXXX or even a XXXX so I went for a Jim Beam & Coke instead. After we'd witnessed a hunched-over elderly gentleman constantly walking around looking for money and heard a band play out 3 tunes through blown speakers, it was time to leave - after a solitary drink. Thank goodness!!

Through the drizzly rain, we headed for The Caxton Hotel. I do not know why. I think the party girl just wanted to continue her celebrations and who were the rest of us to argue?

I thought The Paddo was bad but The Caxton is so very awful. It is here that I committed a cardinal sin. I confess...I drank a XXXX. Please don't hate me. One of our party insisted he get a round of drinks in and insisted that I joined him in 'savouring' a XXXX Bitter. I must've been more intoxicated than I thought. I am very embarrassed and sorry for what I did. All in the name of tasting different beers right? Is that a good enough excuse? Probably not.

It was shortly after the XXXX Bitter saga that a girl of no more than 26 years old was spotted wandering aimlessly around the place. As she passed me sitting on a stool (a bar stool that is - not excrement - I hadn't soiled myself or anything) I gently grabbed her by the shoulders so that we were face to face. I mouthed at her "Are you ok?". Her eyes were rolling around in her head and she was not 'with it' at all. It suddenly dawned on me that I was nearly a generation older than most of the people in The Caxton. She left shortly afterwards with friends in a cab. What a mess.

I was too bloated to drink any more beers. I'd had 10 so I sipped Jim Beam & Coke well into the wee small hours. Those of us that chose to party hard eventually got home and into bed at 4.30am Sunday. Hangover? Yes. Quite bad.

Poor Fran was up at 5.45am with her and Dave's kids.

Whilst I've made the latter stages of the night sound rather bleak and appalling, it goes without saying that we all had a wonderful night. I wouldn't have missed it for the world. It was great to be part of Fran's celebrations - I hope you had a good one Fran! Thanks to you both for putting us up also.