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Ballast Point Sculpin IPA. This beer has been on my to-do list for a while. I’m a big fan of the Ballast Point Big Eye IPA and I have heard good things about this one.

It’s bang-on the typical stats for an American IPA, 7% ABV and 70 IBU. Strangely, I couldn’t find any info regarding malts or hops used in quick Google search. Sculpin fish have poisonous spikes on their fins and they look quite bad arse so I imagined this beer is going to pack some punch.

Golden yellow colour, slightly opaque, fine head with hop oils. Medium body, moderate carbonation with fine bubbles. Sweet caramel malt, pine and peach hop aroma. As it warms up it starts to get a tropical fruit aroma. Sweet caramel malt flavour upfront followed by a pine, mango and peach hop flavour with a dry finish. It also has a clean citrus, particularly lemon finish as it warms up.  It’s not your typical American IPA. It’s lighter, fruiter and more easy-drinking than I was expecting.

In terms of style it seems more like an American pale ale than a big, bold in your face American IPA.





4 Pines Keller Door Imperial India Brown Ale. You’ve got to give it to 4 Pines, they have a crack at brewing a range of different beer styles.

Their Keller Door Series allows them to show off their creative side. This one is no exception, an Imperial India Brown Ale. Not really a style you hear much about. Big, malty and packed with hop flavour. Kind of like Black IPA’s younger brother. I couldn’t find what malts and hops were used but it’s 8% ABV and 70 IBU.

Reddy brown colour, fine slightly yellow/green head with small bubbles of hop oils. Medium body and moderate carbonation. A delicious smooth pine hop aroma.

Starts with a big wave of pine hop flavour, followed by a chocolate and nutty malt flavour with a roasted malt aftertaste. Nice resinous mouthfeel with the hop flavours lingering. The alcohol is well hidden and there are no bittersweet or boozy flavours. It’s a lot hoppier than I was expecting however, it’s well balanced by the malt.

Big on malt and hop flavour, this is my favourite 4 Pines release to date.





Brewdog Tokyo. This a beer you often hear beer nerds talking about. Have you tried Brewdog’s Tokyo? It’s insane!

When Brewdog relaunched their range with new labels in 2014 the name of this beer seemed to also change. It used to be known as Tokyo with ‘Intergalactic Fantastic Oak Aged Stout’ on the label. It now seems to be called Tokyo Intergalactic Stout.

Whatever you want to call it, this is not a brew for the faint hearted. It looks innocent enough but underneath is a lurking monster. On the malt bill are marris otter, dark crystal, caramalt, chocolate malt and roast barley. It was hopped with Galena which is primarily used for bittering. For the beer nerds, Galena’s typical alpha acid content is 11.5 to 13.5%. Not surprisingly the result is a relatively high level of bitterness, 90 IBU. Then like a ninja’s flying side kick in comes the ABV – 18.2%! Then if you weren’t dazzled enough, jasmine and cranberries were added followed by aging on French toasted oak chips.

I tried this on tap at The Royal Albert in Sydney when they held a Brewdog tap takeover. I had to try to properly so I went for the largest size on offer, a middy.

Jet black with a thin, creamy light brown head. Sweet boozy port-like aroma. Full body, luscious with a smooth mouthfeel. Initially, there is a very sweet port and mild milk chocolate flavour which is quickly overpowered by a strong port-like flavour. It tastes like a fine port and nothing like a beer. Probably the first time I’ve drunk a midi of port in one sitting. The high ABV gives it a very sweet and boozy flavour, you’d never know it was 90 IBU. If you’re expecting a rich, bitter stout you will be sorely disappointed.

Port fans will love it and everyone else will be left scratching their head.





Baladin Birra Nazionale. I've tried about six Baladins now and I'm not going back. They're all overspiced, unnecessarily look-at-me pants. And they're expensive.

This is the Italian brewery's Belgian Ale or Blonde Ale and it follows the in-house style of taking an established brewing style and adding unnecessary weird to it.

Honestly, if these guys could just show me one instance of adequacy in delivering a straight-up-and-down piece of brewing, I might allow them the indulgence of thinking they always know better than everybody else and I might stretch to a tolerance of them sticking a bunch of spice, sugar, fruit or pepper in to the odd out-there brew. But they haven't. Ever.

Instead, they do stuff like this, bought at Malpensa Airport and it's so poor that I was kicking myself for not having the Beck's instead. True.

There's so much coriander on the nose and on the tongue that it makes you wonder whether there's any malt in it at all. And what malt there is shoots across the tongue like a lightning bolt, leaving you with a big wallop of spice and banana and then a burnt battery aftertaste, with definite traces of the metallic about it. It's like every mouthful starts with mediocrity, gives you a tantalising hint of what might have been and explodes into an unbalanced mess of strangeness that lingers long after each swallow.

There's a good head, so there's something that indicates they've got a clue.






Widmar Brothers Alchemy Ale. Brewed up in Portland, Oregon, there must be an interesting backstory about how this came to be on a supermarket shelf in Italy, but I guess I'll never find it out.

For an ale, it acts remarkably like a lager (so much so that Widmar recommends you drink it out of a lager glass), even though it tips in at 5.8% ABV and uses Munich, Vienna Extra Special, Pale and Caramel malts.

There are hints of citrus in the nose and the taste, some toasty flavours as well, but the highlight is the mouthfeel and the perfectly balanced carbonation.

It just needs a bit more strength in its flavours and some more oomph as the finish to do that mouthfeel more justice.

Adequate as an American Pale Ale, but not much more than that.







Red Hook ESB. I'd actually had this in the fridge for about a month before tackling it. I sometimes have a bit of trepidation when I'm tackling an American brewery's take on an English classic for the first time. To see why, try one of the big, resin-rich US or Australian craft IPAs versus a British IPA and you'll notice they're barely in the same postcode, much less deserving of the same beer style name.

Yet, this isn't like that. It's a reasonable homage to a much-underrated British brewing style, and it comes from up Seattle, Washington, way and they're not two things you ever expect to combine well, but they're going in the right direction.

It has a nicely peppery nose, a strong hint of caramel on the tongue (yeah, Caramel malts, combined with Pale and Carapils malts, should propably deliver that) and some nice balance as the bitterness kicks in late. They use Alchemy, Williamette, Crystal and Centennial hops to deliver 5.8 percent ABV.

Compared to, say, a Fuller's ESB, it could use more bitterness (it's only 28 IBU, so it's not one for the hopheads) and the underlying tone is slightly sweet and delivers less of the cereal nuances you'd hope to find. It's also a little light on the gas and the mouthfeel is slightly watery, but it's utterly inoffensive and I'd go back for more than one.

That said, I'd also walk past it without a second's regret to get to the many beers that are better, even in the limited ESB aisles.





St. Denise la Reserve de l'Abbesse. For a minute there I thought I'd found a Belgian beer I didn't hate. That's a rare day for me, given that fruit is for dessert or something to nibble on in the afternoon, rather than beer.

But I didn't find anything of the sort. This is a doppelganger beer, brewed in The Netherlands. If you've ever had Sterkens Smokkelaar, you'd find this very similar. Very similar indeed.

Because it's the same beer, rebottled to trick people into thinking it's a Belgian abbey beer when it's really a Dutch beer brewed nowhere near an abbey. Sneaky bastards.

It is, though, Belgian Ale in style, which is as close to Belgian as it gets, and pours with a thick, white head that can easily get away from you if you're not concentrating. So tick the gas box.

For all that, the carbonation feels soft and the taste hints at banana, malts, cereal and a bit of lemon. And that's how it drinks.

It's OK. Just. You won't hate it and you won't rush back for another one. Especially given that it's pretending to be something it isn't.





Coronado Brewing Company Imperial India Pale Ale. I was attracted to this beer by the name, basically because beer has caused me to be an idiot several times (a bit more than several, actually). And I am grateful for my stupidity.

It pours a cloudy pale, which might be fine for an IPA, but I expected a bit darker. The aroma is tropical fruit with a resinous undercurrent. The taste is a bit of a reverse with the fruit struggling to penetrate the hop (five varieties; the big four Cs and Nugget) resin that coats the mouth. This is a very sensuous beer meant for savouring, but as there is no hint of the 8.5%ABV it disappears all too quickly. This could be a dangerous session ale.

There is a warning on the bottle that the fancy decoration contains Cadmium. Stick to what is inside and leave licking the bottle to a real idiot.





Batch Brewing Co American Pale Ale. An update from Martin Beves’ excellent review on March 14. I picked this up from the brewery in Marrickville, a suburb of Sydney in Australia, and enjoyed a bit of hipsterness while there.

I refused to sit on a plastic milk crate, but did drink from a screw top jar (what the brewers know in the USA as a “mason” jar) and devour a couple of freshly smoked brisket rolls. I must say that the container did not ruin the experience.

The bottle now has stick on plastic, rather than painted stencil and they have removed the best before advice. The beer? Martin nailed it, so read his review and let me continue with this luscious beer. It does have a very chewy resinous mouthfeel.





Hargreaves Hill ESB. I first tried this on tap at Bitter Phew in Sydney. Working my way through the taps, I came across it by chance.

Not sure what hops were used but I read somewhere they use hops from Australia, NZ or the US depending on seasonal availability. It’s a sessionable 5.2% ABV.

Light amber colour with a fine head. Nice citrus, stonefruit and tobacco aroma. A clean and refreshing citrus, grapefruit, stonefruit and passionfruit hop flavour followed by a smooth tobacco hop flavour nicely balanced by a caramel and slightly bready malt flavour.

Crisp, refreshing and moderately bitter finish. It’s like an English ESB with fruity US pale ale flavours. It was so tasty and sessionable one pint wasn’t enough.

I’ve since tried it on tap at the Hargreaves Hills cellar door in Yarra Glen as well as in bottles and it has been consistently good.

An interesting fusion of beer styles which works beautifully.



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