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Biere du Moulon Amacord. In spite of the name, this isn't French at all. Normally, that's a good thing with a beer. But it's not that it's made by a different traditional beer stronghold because this is Italian.

It's not just Italian, though, because it's from Apecchio, a tiny mountain hamlet about halfway between Firenze and Ancona and way, way, way more famous for drinking wine and grappa and vin santo than beer.

This is their Amber Ale, complete with a fliptop head, and it pours with an enthusiastic head that lasts all glass long, complete with lacing.

Its aroma is rich, reflecting accurately a flavour profile of toasted malts, spiced fruit, licorice. On the downside is some sourness and astringency.

It's not a bad effort and it's better than I expected it to be, but I'm not in a rush to try another one6/10.






Fuller's Vintage Ale 2012. London Pride brewer, Fuller's, release this vintage ale every winter and, to my dismay, recommend cellaring it for between three and four years.

The hell with that. I could manage just two years, so perhaps I didn't get it at its prime. And that saddens me, because the thought of this beer improving even more is a tantalizing one.

It comes in this box, too, and just in case you didn't understand that it's not part of the regular Fuller's lineup, they sting you a lot of money for it. And they should.

Fuller's released it for the first time in 1997 and it's so limited that each bottle is individually numbered. The recipe is slightly tweaked each year to suit climactic conditions, but the ABV stays at around 8.5%.

It's brewed with Goldings, Sovereign and Target hops and uses yeast and organic barley grown by Sir James Fuller himself.

It pours a very dirty-looking brown (it's bottle conditioned) and is visually not the most appealing ale in the Fuller's lineup. But just when you think things aren't ship shape in the bottle, the aroma storms through the murk.

It's all caramel notes and crushed raisins and toffee and cut grass and nutmeg and marmalade. And it's somehow balanced.

Avoid the mistake of serving it too cold and it rewards the tongue with a gloriously soft mouthfeel. There's barely a hint of the booziness you normally expect with this sort of ABV, but instead a wonderful assortment of everything good, from a sherry to toasted malts to brown sugar and finished with a slight peppery aftertaste.

It's an incredibly complex beer and Fuller's only makes 125,000 of them a season. with the four I've still got waiting for me, you might get lucky and snag one of the other 124,995.








River Falls Thomas Creek Irish Red Ale. I was on a work trip to the Carolinas, so I got to have this South Carolina brew in Greensville, not far from its home base. So, no excuse for not being fresh.

And fresh it was. And surprising. Surprising in good ways and mediocre.

For starters, the nose isn't enormously appealing, with a fair hit of diacetyl dominating some malts and caramel. And it's not the richest looking of Irish Red Ales.

On the upside, it tasted like a lovely beer and one that you could either have a session on or just savour over a hearty winter meal.

There are strong tones of toasted bread and other grains and the finish is dry, even though the IBU level only sits at 21. The mouthfeel is also clean enough, with a medium carbonation, to give it every hint of having been brewed by proper beer lovers.

It's not exactly down the pipe of a classical Red Irish Ale, but it's a pretty good beer regardless. Some refining of the recipe to make the nose a bit less chemically infused would give this a big leap forward, though.





Murray's Fred IPA. When I heard about this beer I thought it was going to be in the same vein as other Murray’s brews. All their beers, including the Angry Man Pale Ale, Big Wednesday IPA and Doghouse IPA, are hopped with Kiwi hops.

But this beer is different - it’s the first Murray’s beer to be brewed without Kiwi hops. It was hopped with a house blend of hops from the Pacific Northwest of the US. From what I can gather, pale malt is the only malt addition.

It’s a respectable 6% ABV and 75 IBU. Being unfiltered, it’s got a hazy and yeasty appearance. This was the last beer brewed under the helm of head brewer Shawn Sherlock who has moved onto starting his own brewpub in Newcastle.

Hazy, golden yellow colour with a creamy and hoppy head. Nice citrus and grapefruit aroma. Strong citrus, grapefruit and underlying pine hop flavour. Clean mouthfeel with a dry and firm bitter finish. One of my favourite Murray’s brews to date.

If you like a refreshing and bitter IPA check it out.





Blackdog Leader of the Pack IPA. I had heard good things about Blackdog so when I saw it on the shelves I thought I better check it out.

Blackdog Brewery is the brainchild of James Booth, a winemaker at Taminick Cellars located in Kelly country at Glenrowan, Victoria. After years of homebrewing he decided to dabble in commercial brewing in 2011.

Starting with a 70 litre setup, James took the plunge and started up a larger scale brewery in 2013 naming it Black Dog Brewery inspired by his pet dog.

Leader of the Pack is an American IPA. On the malt front is Maris Otter, Golden Promise, Munich, Vienna and Crystal malts. The hop bill is apparently tweaked a bit may include a range of hops including Citra, Chinook, Cascade, Galaxy, Warrior, Simcoe, Stella, Columbus, Centennial and Nelson Sauvin. I couldn’t find details of the IBU but it’s 6.2% ABV.

A reddy/amber colour, quite dark for an IPA. Fine, light brown head with a tinge of green and small bubbles of hop oils. Sweet, biscuity malt aroma. Medium body and moderate carbonation. Starts with a sweet and not overly biscuity malt flavour, leading into a strong citrus, pine and grapefruit hop flavour.

There’s a relatively strong lip smacking hop bitterness with a dry finish. As it warms up it starts to get a bit of a resinous mouthfeel. I bought a six pack and noticed some variations between bottles. Namely, some had a much more pronounced pine hop flavour than others.

This is a refreshing and flavour packed IPA. It has plenty of hop and malt flavour and is well balanced. Being well under 7% ABV it doesn’t have any bittersweet or boozy flavours that some other American IPAs have.

If this was beer was a dog it would be a Kelpie, trusty and reliable.





New Belgium Ranger IPA. I came across this by chance in a craft beer bottlo. The label, with what appears to be a Canadian Mountie’s hat filled with hops, caught my attention.

I had a closer look at the label and discovered the brewery is actually located in Colorado. An American IPA hopped with Simcoe, Cascade and Chinook and a typical 70 IBU. I noticed it was a bit less boozing than your typical American IPA, 6.5% ABV instead of the usual 7%+ ABV.

I find the American IPAs which are under 7% ABV are less syrupy, bittersweet and boozy tasting. So an American brewed IPA with some of my favourite hops and not too boozy sounded like a winner.

As I opened the bottle the hop aromas burst from the bottle. Pours a golden yellow colour, white head with lots of delicious hop oil bubbles. Medium body and moderate carbonation. Nice floral, citrus and pine aroma.

From the initial sip it packs a big hop flavour. Strong citrus and floral flavours followed by a decent dose of piney goodness. The malt takes a backseat allowing the hop flavours to shine.

Clean mouthfeel with a little bit of resin, moderately dry finish and a lingering bitterness. As it warms up it becomes a little more resinous, less bitter but the hop flavours still dominate over the malt flavours. There are no bittersweet or warm alcohol flavours like some other American IPAs.

This beer has what I love in an American IPA that is often so hard to find. Strong, delicious hop flavours without sweet boozy or malt flavours, particularly crystal malt, which often smother the hop flavours.

Check it out if you like American IPAs which are big on flavour, without being heavy or sickly, such as EPIC Armageddon or Coronado Brewing Idiot IPA. At AU$12 for a 650ml bottle it’s also ridiculously good value for a beer of this calibre.





Nørrebro Bryghus New York Lager. Hard to find, easy to drink, this is a Danish small brewery take on a US east coast lager.

Except it's organic and we could only find it at The Standard restaurant in Copenhagen.

Nørrebro Bryghus has made this organically since 2011 and that can only be good, right? That, and Nørrebro Bryghus guarantees that it's CO2 neutral, from the start of the barley's growth cycle to the delivery trucks.

What they've done ends up delivering something like a Brooklyn Lager, with 5.3% ABV, more flavour, a richer colour and more nuance.

It starts with a lovey thick head, but that soon dissipated (as you see here after just a mouthful), though it stayed at about the pictured level all the way down the (lager) glass. 

It's made to a New York-style pre-prohibition lager recipe, too, delivering a hoppy aroma and a slightly floral, grassy smell, too.

The carbonation is low and the mouthfeel slightly watery, but the flavour profile delivers strong caramel malts and a late, sharp bitter finish. Maybe too strong on the caramel malts for some.

It's not bad drinking, but there are better lagers around, even for the lager lovers. Still, good to try a local beer wherever you are, and if you happen to be in Copenhagen, you're not going to be remotely offended if you have a crack at this one.






Founders Imperial Stout. I thoroughly enjoyed Founder’s other dark beers such as their porter and breakfast stout, so this one leapt out from the shelf. Apparently it’s brewed with ten varieties of malted barley. It’s 90 IBU and a potent 10.5% ABV.

Jet black with dark brown head, light can’t penetrate it. It could pass for treacle. It sure looks like a-hairs-on-your-chest kind of stout. Rich chocolate and molasses aroma. Full body, soft, luscious mouthfeel with very low carbonation. Rich, dark chocolate and molasses flavour with an underlying toffee and coffee flavour, followed by an assertive bitter finish.

You can almost feel your insides warming as you drink it. The alcohol is well hidden and it doesn’t fall into the sickly sweet trap a lot of high ABV beers do. As it warms up it starts to get a raisin-like aroma with rich dark chocolate and coffee flavours dominating. The mouthfeel becomes more silky with a softer level of bitterness.

This has got be one of the most luscious, flavour packed beers I’ve tasted. The perfect beer to sip on in front of the fire. Fans of beers such as 8 Wired iStout and Feral Boris Russian Imperial Stout should check it out. World class stuff.





Brakspear Bitter. This is another beer with a great backstory. Brakspear was founded in Henley-on-Thames in England by a descendent of the 170th Pope.

The 170th Pope, for those not so inclined to the history of Catholicism, was called Adrian IV and happened to be the only the only English Pope in history. He also happened to be from a family called Brakspear whose descendents started a brewery in a quiet river village in 1779. And to keep the connection with his actual name, rather than his Pope name, he used the bee as his symbol (to represent the "B" in "Brakspear"), and the brewery still uses it today.

If we'd been a decade earlier, we'd have been drinking the Brakspear Bitter in the 200-plus year-old brewery, but Brakspear moved out in 2002 and now it's a fancy hotel called the Hotel Du Vin (I know, very English, right?) that doesn't serve bacon for breakfast.

Still, it does serve Brakspear Bitter, which we should be thankful for. For those coming across from a palate schooled in lagers or IPAs, the English bitter style might take a few pints of getting used to, and Brakspear makes this easier to achieve by limiting the Bitter to 3.4% ABV.

It's a deep, rich looking thing that defies its low alcohol count in every way, and it's made from Fuggles and Styria hops and Pale, Crystal and Chocolate malts.

And it's made with the same double-drop brewing technique and the very same copper everything Brakspear has used since a year after the First Fleet landed in Botany Bay. Yep, they just moved it all to Wychwood.

It packs a stupendously big punch for such a low ABV, with big flavours everywhere, big smells, too. There is toffee and caramel and there is a real earthiness to the way it tastes, along with a slight metallic twinge that ale folk might find off-putting.

It's not the fizziest thing, either, being very light in carbonation, but that just helps it go down easier, and there's a lovely crisp bitter finish to it.

I know I keep harping on it, but it's very rare to find a beer with this much flavour with what is effectively a mid-strength ABV. You can knock down as many as you feel like without having to worry about staggering home or feeling bloated.

And I'm sure the Pope would be happy about that.






Weihenstephaner Festbier. The festbier is a seasonal speciality brew also known as Oktoberfestbier or Märzen.

For the purists the term ‘Oktoberfestbier’ only applies to beer brewed within Munich city limits, so this, brewed at Freising near the airport, doesn't count. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a seasonal lager. A sessionable 5.8% ABV and a mild 26 IBU.

Pale yellow colour with a head that dissipates quickly. Mild and sweet pilsner malt aroma. Medium to light body with low carbonation, possibly as a result of handling. Gentle pilsner malt flavour with a soft, grassy euro lager taste.It tastes like a slightly refined beer chicken.

Perhaps it tastes better fresh from the source, sitting under a tree in a Munich beer garden.



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