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You know that time when you restart something there is always a little bit of dread about it. You probably won’t be able to run as fast, finish a task as quickly as you used to or in my case colour inside the lines as well I used to.

Well this dread applies to starting to write about beer again… It has been a long time and I kind of felt like I ran out of things to say so I stopped for a time but you know it got to that point where I sort of missed it so here we go again and what better beer to start with again then the Little Creature’s winter seasonal offering,

Return of the Dread: Domestic Extra Stout

IMG_0429The Return of the Dread owes it’s existence to the first Little Creatures Single Batch, The Dreadnought which was a massive 7.4% dark beer that was enormously popular and for a good reason, it was an excellent dark beer. The second coming of the Dreadnought is slightly muted in it’s 330 Ml form at 7.2% but it is still dark with a strong coffee coloured head which stuck around for a time.

My first piece of advice is leaving this out of the fridge for about 20 minutes, you will get a much better tasting experience if you don’t have it straight from the fridge. This beer is all about the dark roasted malts will give a delicious treacly taste which is very fulfilling and so well balanced as beer that despite being a stout it is very drinkable without that harshness you can sometimes get on a stronger stout. It leaves slightly bitter dark chocolate with some vanilla notes that linger at the very end of the beer

So while this beer is not the Dreadnought it is still a very solid and very enjoyable stout which you can pick up from any of the better big bottle shops like a Dan Murphy’s.

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Red Hill’s Scotch Ale

Red Hill is a brewery that grows it’s own hops on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria. It produces a core range of European style beers that are all about sessionability and accessibility. Don’t go looking for some 100+ IBU IPA’s. What you will find are Belgium strongs, Christmas beers, Pils, a stout and wheat beers. They also make a Scotch Ale which with the exception of the offerings from Redoak will round out all the Australian beers in the 1001 beers challenge.

According to The Oxford Companion to Beer Scotch ales are the heavier version of Scottish ales and can be known as ‘Wee Heavy’. Traditional Scotch ales were made with malt that had been smoked over peat to give it the smokey flavour but this is not limited to how beer was made in Scotland. It happened in many different countries but the idea of this won’t go away and I suspect that it is linked to Scotch whisky from places such as Laphroaig which are famed for their peaty smokey flavours.   

photo (10)Red Hill first released the Scotch Ale in 2005 and has taken seven years to perfect. The beer comes out at 5.8% which equates to 1.6 standard drinks.

The beer itself is a cooper colour with a creamy whitish yellow head that it both tight and persistent.   

This beer is more muted on the nose then other scotch ales I have tried, probably because it has a more reasonable alcohol level then other beers I have tried. There is still a pleasant alcohol sort of warming smell and the sweetness of the malts that makes me interested in tasting the beer.

The taste is one that definitely lingers and, like the smell, is definitely muted in comparison to other scotch ales I have tried. This doesn’t make it a bad beer, in fact it is refreshing to taste something that isn’t trying to be the biggest baddest beer on the playground.

There are bits of toffee and just a little touch of smokiness that gives way to some nice bitterness in tail which gives this beer some longevity.

I would recommend this to people who are looking to get into the the Scotch Ale style but are having some trepidation.  

If this doesn’t get you onto the Red Hill train, check out their hoodies, they have some pretty good ones up for sale.

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New Belgium, a new way, and a Fat Tire.

New Belgium is the third largest craft brewery in the United States, which considering the craft beer boom is a high accomplishment. What makes this even more impressive is the structure of New Belgium and it’s origin story. 

Named by former husband and wife team, Jeff Lebesch and Kim Jordan after a cycling tour of Belgium. New Belgium came into being in 1991. This is a brewery that believes in sustainability, they are working towards being wind powered and pay an extra  on their power bills to make sure they get the greenest energy they can. They also put into place the most energy efficient brewing methods that they can.

This is great but it is not the most amazing part of New Belgium and that is the way it is run. This quote is what sums it up for me

” We believe that the collective is stronger than the individual and that informed coworkers will make responsible decisions.”

Fat TireAll the workers at New Belgium have shares in the company and no one else does, there are monthly well being meetings, has a tiny turnover (3% per year) and is in the minority in that it is run by a woman, Kim Jordan, in a world that has been considered masculine for such a long time despite the history of brewing being the realm of a women.

You can see a list of grants and community work that New Belgium does here. 

Today I get my first taste of New Belgium’s flagship beer, Fat Tire.

It is an amber ale at 5.2% by volume and it comes out looking exactly like an excellent amber should. It smells delightfully sweet with hints of honey and some really nice fresh hoppy floral smell. If the smell is good the taste is better. I can why this was the beer that took off. It is everything I like without being a fatiguing type of beer. Easy to drink but amazingly enjoyable if you find it, grab a 6 pack, it goes amazing on the spring picnics that are to come. I got mine from Beer Cartel.

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The To Try 5

So Sunday night my girlfriend and I were out to dinner. I was having an Echigo Koshihikari Rice Lager with my sushi (Find the review here) and we were chatting away about the food and I mentioned the match with the beer. Now my partner is not a big craft beer drinking or beer drinking in general but she knows what sort of things she likes. After talking about this for a while the challenge was thrown down, what beers could I find that she might actually enjoy?

Before getting started you need to know the following things about The Cynical Girlfriends drinking palate. She is a definite pilsener person with her favourite being the local S.A. craft beer, Lobethal Pilsener and because I already know that I am not putting it to the list. I think she really likes the crisp lager tastes, nothing too sweet and certainly nothing bitter or floral. Dark beers are also, as a general rule, out.

Don’t even think about trying any of that sour stuff out Justin either because that is just not going to fly.


So without further fruity fanfare here it is; The Cynical Girlfriends to try 5.


Vale Lager: Let’s start with something from the home state, this is 4.5% and while it has the same IBU’s as it’s more famous sibling the Vale Ale it is not nearly has fruity about it, rather the malt profile is turned up so that the flavours from the hops are rather more muted. When I tried this I found it to be a smooth drinking beer which is exactly what I was looking for. If this selection is going to let me down it will be because it lacks that snap to crisp dryness.

Trumer Pils: Trumer is probably one of the world’s best known pils. (you will notice the other one is not on the list) Coming from Austria it prides itself on looking like a great beer from the tight white head to that straw like colour. This beer might be a little bit of a test and may have a too many hops but if it is left to be a little closer to it’s best before date it could definitely fit Rhiannon’s taste profile.

Estrella Damm: It is a jump across to Spain for the next offering, Estrella Damm. This beer can be torn down by beer snobs because to be honest people on rate beer are looking for something extra ordinary, balance means very little on beer rating sites I have found(No lager makes it into Beer Advocates top 150 beers and the majority of entrants are Imperial this or Double that). Let me quantify that by saying this is not a great beer but it is certainly a thirst quencher that you can really enjoy quite cold on a hot day. You can also knock quite a few back which can be said for all of these beers. This is certainly a beer that fits well with have a beer that allows you to have a drink and keep a conversation without having your taste buds destroyed.

Pabst Blue Ribbon: everyone has an opinion about the way PBR has been embraced by hipsters and counter cultural types but regardless of what you feel about the marketing around this beer it provides a good classic sort of american adjunct (I hate that term because it comes with a lot of negative connotations) Refreshing, while retaining some hop flavours that are little more then a swish and finishing sharp. I don’t mind this beer, plus it comes in a 500 mL can. I really like canned beer!

Pilsner Urquell: The creators of the style and lagers to come. The pure water has been the secret but the website claims that this beer is hiding something away from the first sip so maybe the complexity of this beer will be the one that overcomes the craft beer blockage. You never know.


The Dark Horse Beers:

Southwark Premium: A purely S.A. beer, don’t bother looking for it anywhere else. Drink it cold, drink it fast this beer shows everyone what Australian lagers were like in the 70’s and could definitely squeeze into beer drinking contention.

Moo Brew Pilsner: This is probably my favourite on the list of top 5’s and as a result the most complex one. Probably not as dry as it could be to fit Rhiannon’s tastes but regardless it is an excellent example of style and as the last beer on the list is certainly not going to be Rhiannon’s favourite but should be tasted just to show what else is out there.

Sapporo & Kirin: These ‘superdry’ Japanese beers will probably win the day really but I didn’t want to put them in the main competition because I don’t think that is much of a challenge. Having said that my partner will read this before the blind test so maybe I will slip them in.

Okay there you have it, Next time I will come to you with some blind tastings and what my partner thinks of these offerings. There is a bit of reputation on the line.

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Riverside Brewing & Beer Cartel Online Tasting

A couple of weeks ago I got an email which excited me and most certainly was not spam, it was an invitation from online beer supplier, Beer Cartel to take place in what they thought was a first of it’s kind, an online beer tasting and Q & A session with the brewer from Sydney brewery Riverside Brewing Company on August 19th. 

The Numbers LineI got a discount on the 4 beers that I bought in order to be able to taste them while watching a live chat session from the Flat Rock Beer Cafe. The beers that were part of the tasting were the 

  • 55 Pale Ale
  • 44 Amber Ale
  • 77 IPA 
  • 88 Porter

The beers were tasted in this order and with a friend who was lured over with mystifying text messages and the promise of beer we were all settled in and ready to watch and taste. The event kicked off at 6:30 PM Central Australian time and we were more then ready to go with the first beer.

55 Pale AleThe first beer was an American style Pale Ale that based purely on the nose of it was going to be a massively hopped beer that is not something that is uncommon in American pales. The fact that the beer label is emblazoned with a big hop cone plays into this smell. The label also makes claims of a truck load of American Cascade hops  which you could certainly smell. This beer is the equivalent of 1.5 standard drinks which means that in the 330 ml bottle you have a 5.5% alcohol by volume. This was one of the first beers launched by Riverside when they opened in 2012. This beer despite having a very hoppy floral aroma didn’t smash me and my friend in the space in the way that we thought it was going to do, instead it gave away to a smokey sort of taste rather then extreme bitter. The bitterness was still there but not nearly as pronounced as the aroma promised it was going to be. I found the beer to be a little bit thin at the back end, maybe it could have used a little bit more malt or maybe I was just spoiled by the big smell and the interesting smokey flavour but I do feel like the mouthfeel dropped off the cliff pretty quickly.  

This is where we get to one of my (very few) complaints about the online feed, the pacing. It took quite a while for even the first beer to be opened and I am sorry but we just didn’t have the patience for that. This was something that was constant through the event. I am ready to admit that this could have something to do that I was sharing the beer and therefore got through it rather more quickly then the guys on the stream did.   

44 Amber AleThe second beer that was opened up after a while was the 44 Amber Ale. This beer upped the strength to 6.5% which was 1.7 standard drinks. The beer pours out a murkey brown colour which is the sort of colour that I like to see in my ambers personally. I don’t need my beers to be clear, I like it cloudy sometimes. It makes the beer look a little mysterious, that is the way I see it anyway.

This was a beer with a backbone that is for sure. It was malt driven and perfect for a cooler evening. It had a nice amount of sweetness that was enticing. When tasting the beer my friend pointed out some cherry flavours which were not something that I expected but as I tasted the beer more and as it warmed up a slightly I found this to be a rather pleasant side flavour in the beer and something that made it all the more memorable.  

To make another comment on the stream, it was extremely well run on the social media side, so while I was not able to be there in person I was able to not only live tweet but I was able to directly ask questions in almost real time. I was able to ask a question about the future of Australian hop varieties and what future they have in Australia. I was hoping that Australian craft beer is able to move beyond Pride of Ringwood and create a hop variety which has unique characteristics that can start to give Australian beers a hook on an international market much the way that West Coast IPA’s were able to develop. This question was selected as one of the best of the night and as a result my friend and I are going to be able to enjoy 777IPA from Riverside. 

77 IPAThe third beer was an India Pale Ale (IPA) called 77. It has a cute elephant on the label and as one participant commented the label art that Riverside produces is pretty amazing. The porter label was my favourite but more on that later. This beer built even further on the alcohol then the amber coming in at 7.7% which equals 2 standard drinks. The massive hop aromas on the pale ale meant that I was prepared for an absolute onslaught when putting my nose to the foam but it wasn’t as hardcore as I thought it would be but it was certainly there for me an still really nice. This beer is really nice but for me it has gotten to the point that I am almost done with IPA’s. This not because I don’t like them but rather because there are soooo many amazing ones out there that it is hard for any one IPA to cut through the noise of every other IPA I have had. Having got that off my chest this is still a really good IPA and I would recommend it if anyone asked me about it but I was still thinking about that slight cherry taste and how unusual that was while drinking the IPA.

88 PorterThe fourth and final beer was the dark beer, the 88 porter. I got excited about this beer based purely on two things, the awesome label which I peeled off and put into my tasting book and the fact that it was a dark beer. This beer was not harsh like some dark beers can be but rather the alcohol was taken down a notch but still could knock you over if you had too many at it’s 6% and 1.6 standard drinks. The malt and hops are well balanced that makes this a really good beer that is not going to fill you up but is not going to leave you wanting more in terms of flavours and mouthfeel. The beer is slightly sweeter then some standard porters, obviously excluding things like milk based dark beers, but this just made the beer go down faster. Some people say that dark beers can almost be a chore to drink but this is a charge that cannot be leveled at the 88. I would recommend this beer to anyone who is skeptical but willing to get into dark beers.

So this lead to the end of the tasting but the stream continued on and to me it made the whole process a little too long. There were also occasional audio issues where despite the fact that I had the speakers on my laptop fully turned up I missed some bits and pieces but all in all it was a great experience and a really good event to hear about the beers as I drank them with friends.

I got a lot out of it and I play to attend the next Sofa Sessions with NZ brewers Yeastie Boys. You can find the link here to get tickets. If you want to hang out drink beers and listen to Stu from Yeastie Boys just let me know.

On a side not this was a really good move by Beer Cartel because I figured if I was going to pay for shipping on these beers I might as well fill my carton so I certainly spent more money then I meant to but hey I got delicious beer so how can I complain?

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Echigo Pilsner

Echigo 1Japan is not really considered craft beer heaven for many people but there is one brewery that has been trying for quite a period now, Echigo.

Echigo was Japanese first Brew pub, established in 1995 and had difficulty gaining notice from a Japanese public used to crisp super dry style lagers. Today’s offering, Echigo Pilsner was the beer that built the bridge between the brewery and the consumers. It is a 5% beer which uses a large amount of Koshihikari rice, up to 20% rather then the industry standard 4% according to the brewers notes

The beer itself looks great, excuse the glassware, that is all they had at the restaurant, a tight head and a wonderful enticing golden colour. There was next to no aroma to go with this beer.The beer presented with a dry sweet malt backbone with very little hop taste of bitterness or florals to fill out the bone dry skeleton of this beer. The beer had a sharp but ultimately quick finish.photo 2 (5) It is a perfect form of a beer but it lacks the bells and whistles of other more popular beers but I wasn’t looking for bells and whistles I was looking for a beer that would quench my thirst and compliment my food choices. It didn’t say “Great choice with that chicken and avocado roll” but it was able to cut through spice without overpowering it and go well with the more subtle types of
flavours in my sushi. At the end of the day that was all I really wanted from this beer, for it to taste good rather then to say I was making good culinary choices and that was excellent what I got. 

Next post is going to be something different. Make sure you are ready for it. 


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Dogfish Head Review

This is the second of two Dogfish Head beers I have tor review, here is a hint!

Yup there you go, Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch.

Not for you, Little Kitty!

Not for you, Little Kitty!

Midas is named after a real dude who ruled over current day Turkey about 2,700 years ago. When his tomb was discovered in the 1950’s a large selection of drinking vessels, about 40, were found. Analysis showed that the cups contained alcohol in the form of a mix of wine, beer and mead. The molecular archaeologist, Patrick McGovern, looked for a brewery adventurous enough to try recreate this drink and he found it in the form of Dogfish Head in Delaware. This was the first beer which inspired other historical beers that have been made by the DFH. 

The beer itself is made from barley, honey, white muscat grapes and saffron which sounds like an expensive beer and at 9% it is not only rich but also powerful. 

The beer poured with no head but maybe I just poured too slow. The beer is not overly aromatic and is an orangey yellow colour.On tasting the beer you can tell Midas is an all malt affair with not a hop to be found. This beer is about sweetness from muscat grapes, honey and malt. I don’t know enough about saffron to pick that up in the beer. All this sweetness means that the yeast has plenty of sugars to work with and as a result the alcohol content is high and on a cold winter night without a heater I can already feel myself warming up after only a couple of sips.

This beer is an experience and it is not something that I will be seeking out again but regardless it gives me a nice idea about where beer might have come from. Still I think I will be sticking with the modern styles for my regular drinking habits.


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Stone Smoked Porter

If Dogfish Head is a brewery for off centreStone Smoked Porterd people then Stone Brewery is a brewery for people who like something a little bit more extreme. I have written about the extreme marketing techniques used by Stone before especially regarding the Arrogant Bastard Ale but regardless of what you think about that, the beer itself is superb.

Today I address the last beer I need to tick off from Stone for the 1,001 beers, the Stone Smoked Porter.

The Stone Smoke is a 5.9% porter which has a component of peated malt that gave it a great smokey flavour which is perfect for a wintery Sunday night.  A smoked beer is not one where you usually get any hop flavours by Stone still manage it which I really liked rather then just a smokey malty sweet taste. Having said that you won’t confuse this with an ordinary porter. It makes me think of a good quality 65% dark chocolate. This is the sort of beer that I would like to enjoy with a (small) slice of rich cheesecake.

As aside note, my brother picked this up from the states last week. I think it is important to note that considering Stone’s co-founder, Greg Koch’s  strong opinions on grey imports, one I intend to agree with. 

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Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial IPA

I am pretty excited!

I really like beer, anyone who has read this or known me would know this but Dogfish Head is a brewery that has been hyped up. The founder, Sam Calagione, is one of the new beer celebrities and I am very curious to see how this brewery stacks up. Overhyped or just pure quality? We will see.

Before we get started on the beer I think we need to understand the cult that follows Dogfish Head. For starters when you are launching a new face for craft brewing it really helps if you can find a craft brewer who looks like this.












As opposed to how beer is often presebeer_fairies Canadian Club adnted which is like this






Not only am I told Sam is ridiculously attractive he was personable enough to manage to have his own TV show on the Discovery Chanel.

It is actually pretty good for the one season that it ran, I have a DVD copy, you can still get it on Amazon if you are interested.

So there you have it personable, attractive and a good taste in beer has lead to someone from Delaware to set up a brewery of Off Centred Ales for Off Centred People. 

Regardless of whether you drool over Sam or you think he is drool there is no doubt that people love Dogfish Head and I am very much looking forward to trying the 90 Minute Imperial IPA.photo 4 (9)

The 90 minute is called such because it is boiled and hopped for 90 minutes, apparently they now have a cannon which shoots hops into the wort (unfermented beer) at regular intervals that is pretty cool. This gives the beer a high level of bitterness (90 IBUs). The beer balances this high level of hoppy bitterness by raising the alcohol level to 9% by volume which is going to go to your head. Don’t drive after this!

Having said that it pours a clear golden colour that reminds me of how beer looks in ads and is enormously enticing. When sniffing the beer I get a strong malt sweetness but there was a little bit of citrus.


90 Minute IPAWhen you taste this beer there is none chance you won’t know that you are having a full flavoured beer. It is not only strong and bitter but beautifully balanced. if you told me that this beer had 90 IBU’s I wouldn’t believe it but hey in Sam we trust. Esquire Magazine apparently calls it “perhaps the best IPA in America.” I don’t think that they are far from the mark, having said that at some point in my future Pliny the Elder is waiting for me. This beer is big, strong, not subtle but perfectly balanced. If you ever get a chance to pick up a bottle I strongly recommend it, better yet if you are ever in Delaware I would make a deter to Dogfish Head.

Next up Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch.


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A new all South Australian affair

I know I don’t write as much about South Australian beer as much as I should, mostly because I am pretty focused on the 1001 beer challenge. Watch for a unboxing video later this week but something came through my email this week which was pretty exciting.

Coopers, Lobethal Bierhaus and the Adelaide Botanic Gardens with the Adelaide University have got together to create a purely South Australian beer, The Botanic Ale.

lobethal-6The Botanic Beer is made from Navigator Barley, a breed of barley bred from a University of Adelaide cultivated strand in the Botanic Gardens. The barley was then malted by local company, Joe White Maltings. Coopers brewery has supported the growing of barley in the CBD but when the time came the amount of malted barley was not large enough to fit into the Coopers brewing system. This is where Alistair Turnbull and the Lobethal Bierhaus comes in. Coopers got in touch with Alistair and offered to collaborate with him on this new all South Australian beer.

Today was the day for the boil to begin and the hops to be added at the Bierhaus. Tim Cooper went to Lobethal and when I spoke to Alistair today he said that he wanted to make sure that the brewery was looking it’s best. I can’t say I blame him, it is not often that the head of the biggest Australian owned brewery comes to visit, especially when he comes to visit the site of the breweries first collaboration in it’s 152 year history. Despite this the whole process was one of fun as Alistair’s other collaborations with the Yeastie Boys from New Zealand and the boys from Belair Fine Wines have been.  

Only 1,200 litres of the beer are being made which is going to make this beer a hot commodity. The beer itself is going to be a fun pale ale tending more towards the American full hoppy sort of flavour profile as opposed to the more malt driven English pales. I don’t know what the malt is going to bring but the hops used for bittering were Pride of Ringwood. The hops chucked in the middle and end included Cascade, Galaxy and a hop that I hadn’t heard of (Not uncommon by the way) called Triskel. Triskel has strong floral characteristics and is often used in Belgian style ales. 

All profits from the beer are going to support the Adelaide Botanical Gardens and you are going to be able to pick up the Botanic Ale from the Bierhaus and Botanic Gardens Restaurant from October 29th in bottles and on tap. If the excitement from Alistair Turnbull was anything to go by I am going to be making sure I am there to get one of the first tastes in late October

Read the press release, BOTANIC ALE 

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