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Spaten Optimator

Posted By Thomas and Hardy on Sunday 13 October, 2013

 330ml Bottle

Oktoberfest season is wrapping up. I know, I know. It seems silly when we're not even half way through the month of October itself, and yet, who are we to argue with the Germans? As I'm sure you know (or can find out on the googlemachinethingy), Oktoberfest generally begins late-September and runs for just over two weeks. All the beer served must be brewed inside the Munich city limits. If you think this might be a touch limiting, you'd be... well... right.

Traditionally, Octoberfest beer was rich, malty, strong, and hearty. The style served was known as Märzen, in that it was brewed in March, lagered ("stored" - if you ask for a lager in Germany, don't be surprised if somebody gives you a suitcase and a puzzled look) through the summer in cold caves, and served in Spring. It was strong, around 6-7%, malty, and with a smooth, warming drinkability so common to the darker German beer styles. Sadly in modern Germany, as elsewhere in the world, the trend towards paler, lighter beers has overtaken tradition, and jumped up and down upon it's jaunty Tyrolean Fedora. The most popular style of beer now served at Oktoberfest is the Helles or Hell, meaning "pale", and being a 5.2-6% abv malty pale lager. It's still very tasty and thirst quenching, and goes wonderfully with your Weisswurst or Steckerlfisch, but if you yearn for complex maltyness and strength, you may wish to leave the Wies'n and head into town to the Spaten bierhalle.

There are many funny stories and myths about the origin of the term "bock", but the true etymology is lost in the beer haze of history. Suffice to say that bock is simply strong beer. A doppelbock is a double-strength bock, and was (arguably) created by Munich's Paulaner monks as "liquid bread" to sustain them through Lentern fasting. Apparently getting rat-arsed is OK in the eyes of the Lord, but eating is cheating! The original was named "Salvator", and by way of homage, most doppelbocks are given a monicker ending in -ator.

Optimator is Spaten's contender in the doppelbock stakes. It pours a deep brown with coppery highlights, and throws a massive nose of fresh baked pumpernickel bread (perhaps with a thin spread of marmite), chocolate, and black forest cherries. The palate is full bodied, almost syrupy, but without being cloying. There's an excellent balance between malt, hops, and yeast, with a beautiful delicate spicyness (nutmeg?) and notes of caramel joining the promised bready nose. The finish is warming, with a sweet and slightly peppery purr of alcohol blending the flavours, and leaving you with a slightly heady and sensuous joy.

Get yourself a traditional German Brezln and pour a glass of Optimator. A match made in Munich.


Firestone Solace

Posted By HopMaster on Monday 30 September, 2013

 355ml Bottle


Well it's almost summertime and I am sure you were getting worried what your new summer beer was going to be. Well look no further. Firestone Solace unfiltered wheat ale has come to save the day.

Just look at the bottle

You have a lion and a bear ready to kung fu fight! (It's actually Firestone's logo)

So how is this beer? Well it pours with virtually almost no head. Don't let this fool you though, it is nicely carbonated. And it's cloudy as hell. Let's hope our summer isn't like this.

It's got a nice wheat taste while still being light. The thing I like about this beer though is the spice that is contained in there. It's not as sweet as you would think. It's got some yeast bite in there with a slap of citrus. It's a very clean beer.

A very enjoyable beer. Pair this beer with a nice serving of porch sitting and you'll be in for a treat. If you need me, I'll be outside finishing this and enjoying the sun.

Emelisse Imperial Russian Stout

Posted By HopMaster on Friday 13 September, 2013

 330ml Bottle

Recently I have been in search of the darkest tar monster of a stout that I could find. It could be the cooling of the weather or just my tastes changing a bit. So anything that has the words "Imperial" and "Stout" on the bottle require me to taste that beverage.

Today's dark adventure lead me to the Netherlands. The Emelisse brewery started in 2005 and has a huge range of beers. After looking into their line up, they have quite of number of high ABV beers. The Imperial Russian Stout is no different. This guy comes in at 11%. Their beer line up in general looks great.

The appearance of this beer is great. It has a nice dark brown head that settles down relatively fast. It coats the glass nicely and looks like it's thick but not motor-oil thick. No light gets through this beer. It's black as hell.

It smells rather boozy but you can also pick out some coffee notes. Not a ton going on though. Some dark malty-ness but overall, not a lot.

It's a bit thinner than you'd expect but is still a bit thicker than most beers. There is a fair bit going on with this one. You get a lot of chocolate and coffee tones that bring out a bitterness in this beer. You get a tad of sweetness in there as well.

Overall I like this beer. I'd get it again for sure. It's not the motor oil I was looking for but it is a good beer. It's pretty strong too. 1 bottle had me feeling a little tipsy.

So with the weather getting a bit colder, pick up one of these guys and stay in for the night.

Lindemans Framboise

Posted By HopMaster on Saturday 17 August, 2013

 250ml Bottle

Today's beer was a nice change of pace. I've been reviewing some huge beers that are either mega hoppy or have a big ABV. This guy is completely different. Limmermans' Framboise, out of Belgium, is a nice quiet lambic that can be enjoyed on a quiet evening after a nice meal.

It's definitely a different beer that most people aren't used to drinking. Some might not even classify this as a beer. If you aren't familiar with lambics, this may be a good first one to try. Lambics are flavored with different kinds of fruits rather than hops. So you get a lot more sweet than bitterness while also getting some tartness.

This beer comes in a smaller bottle and has a small ABV of only 2.5%. It does have a lot of taste though. It pours a dark red color that looks like a nice red wine but with a nice pink head on it.

It smells a lot like juice to be honest. When you stick your nose into your glass, it smells like fruit juice that your toddler might drink. When you take your first sip, you get the same kind of taste in your mouth as well - a big glass of raspberry. It's a bit tart but overall but not bad. The bottle size is perfect though. I am not sure I could drink much more than 1 or 2 of these bottles. It's not for everyone though. I had better lambics but this one is pretty good, especially for the price.

After drinking this beer though, I think it'd be great to have a nice big dinner with some friends and break these guys out instead of some ice cream to finish the meal off with.

Lindemans Framboise is currently available to purchase from here.

Mikkeller East Kent Golding Single Hop IPA

Posted By HopMaster on Friday 02 August, 2013

 330ml Bottle

Mikkeller is a brewery founded in 2006 which has been referred to as a "phantom" microbrewery. They brew tons and tons of different kind of beers. Get a list here.

The interesting thing about these guys are that they produced a whole line of single hop beers. So you might be asking yourself - "what is a single hop beer?" Beer is made from 4 main things - Water, Barley, some yeast, and HOPS. In my opinion, hops make the beer. So making a whole line of beers that single out a single kind of hop is freaking awesome.

This beer is made from the East Kent Golding hop. This hops is used in traditional English Ales. It's known for it's smooth and floral flavor.

So what's this East Kent Golding like? It's pours a fuzzy, orange color with a respectable head. It's nice and cloudy and has a sweet almost fruity smell to it.

First sips were good. It's a medium bodied beer that has some orange-y fruitness flavors that hit you first. The second wave is some hop flavor with limited bitterness. You get a little spiciness in there but not a lot. This beer did not take a lot of effort to finish.

This is not a very bitter beer but more of a yeasty, citrusy beer. It was a great introduction to the single hop series.

If you are interested in hops, ipas, or just craft beer, then you should check out the single hop series.

Saison Dupont

Posted By HopMaster on Thursday 11 July, 2013

 330ml Bottle

I've been reading a lot about beer recently. I've been seeing what people think is the best in the world. You get a lot of the same answers, some really strange ones (like Pabst Blue Ribbon), and the some that are a little off the beaten path.

I recently came across a blog that said they thought the Saison Dupont was the best beer in the world. Well, when someone makes that kind of statement, I have to check it out.

So how did this beer do?

So I poured this beer into my trusty beer glass and wowzer, this is a carbonated beverage. Lots of head on this beer. It's a very light golden color. The beer is a bit stinky and has a very yeasty smell to it.

It's a very crisp and refreshing beer that's pretty carbonated. I first got a banana bread taste to it. It's also pretty bitter. You get almost a lemony taste coming from it. So lots of different flavors but all pretty fresh.

This beer is a like a freaking cloud of bubbles and head. I liked it a lot though. It gets kind of funky but is also a tad citrusy. It's just a clean beer. It comes in at 6.5% ABV which is a tad high but you'd never know it.

Too bad summer is long gone in New Zealand because this would make a lovely beer to sip on a hot summer night. Is it the best beer in the world? Probably not but it is one that you should try.

Saison Dupont Vieille Provision is currently available to purchase from here.

Wrecked Again

Posted By Thomas and Hardy on Saturday 06 July, 2013

 355ml Bottle

Hardy and I are known (in certain circles) for liking the odd hop-infused treat. Hardy, in fact, sometimes goes as far as to turn up at breweries, begging for cast-off dry hops. Each time, he swears "just one more hit man. I can quit any time I want!" If I'm honest, I'm not much better. Oh sure, we both talk the PC talk. Malt is lovely. It's the soul of the beer! Sometimes, we've even been known to imbibe a doppelbock! It's true however that nothing quite gets our pulses racing like those big ol' bad ol' American hop monsters.

And so, to Shipwrecked Double IPA, from Mission Brewing in the Beer Mecca of San Diego. Yes, Double IPA. I won't bore you here with the often apocryphal but always entertaining versions of the IPA story. Others have done that far better than I ever could. Suffice it to say that the IPA is often (almost always, in North American examples) about hops, hops, and more hops. The best ones are balanced, and malt also plays a huge part, but many seek the thrill of hop overindulgence. A Double IPA is an IPA but bigger. While not strictly always "double" the alcohol, hops, and malt, it is certainly a bigger beast in every sense, whilst still remaining true to the spirit of India Pale Ale. After all that, Shipwrecked actually turns out to be balanced, and thus, citing myself here as an authority, is once of the best!

The beer pours a deep coppery amber with a foamy white head which dissipates reasonably quickly to a wispy remnant. It throws a huge aroma of rosewater and peaches. There's also a hint of something which certain law enforcement officers might be forced to investigate, should they smell it at a rock concert! On the palate, it's on the sweeter side but only just. There are deliciously fruity notes. Hardy gets juicy and overripe peaches, almost ready to turn but so delicious. His incessant drooling cut off anything more coherent he may have had to say at this point. There are grapefruity explosions in a rye bread and caramel sky, along with fresh pine needles and a touch of lime. There's just so much going on in this beer! As it fades away, the hops play on your tongue, leaving a farewell note doused in a lover's perfume. I'm not sure whose lover it was. Mine certainly never had the taste to wear such a citrussy fragrance!

I think I can safely say that Hardy and I fell in love with this beer. I'd strongly recommend getting some for yourself. If you don't like it, I'll ... um ... OK, I got nothing, but I'm pretty sure you will like it. If not, blame Hardy. I always do!

Mikkeller Simcoe Single Hop IPA

Posted By HopMaster on Friday 28 June, 2013

 330ml Bottle

We are back for more IPA madness from Mikkeller. This time we are going to get to know the Simcoe hop.

How's your hop knowledge? Do you know the flavours of the hops yet or just know they add some bitterness into the beer?

Well Simcoe is a bad ass bitter hop that is all the range these days. Actually, people are having a hard time getting it in the States. It's a truck full of bitterness that everyone wants. People describe the Simcoe hop as a middle ground between grapefruit delight and piney wood mouth.

So how does Mikkeller do with their single hop beer? Well, it pours a near perfect IPA with just enough head to make you appreciate it. It's a nice copper color that'd you expect from a good IPA.

So then you take your first sip and it's the Simcoe. A tad of the bitter fruitiness followed but the full force bitterness. It's not a light beer whatsoever and almost has a sticky kind of taste to it. The bitterness stays with you for a good while after drinking.

Simcoe is a great hop and Mikkeller does a great job of capturing it in this beer. If you have any interest in IPA's like I do, you should explore this series. I wouldn't say I would buy these beers all the time because there are more affordable hop trucks out there but if you want a good experience on how each hop can change the taste of a beer, it's worth the investment.

Tickets Please

Posted By Thomas and Hardy on Thursday 20 June, 2013

 500ml Bottle

>Hardy has sworn he will never speak to me again if I ever attempt a Geordie accent in his presence. I'm perfectly ahreet with tha', man. Ahem. But seriously, I love the Geordie accent. It's not just that it reminds me of a youth wasted watching Red Dwarf, but that hearing it takes me back to drinking Workie Ticket from Mordue, lovingly handpulled in a small pub in the North East of England.

I can still remember ordering it with a questioning Kiwi uncertainty, puzzled by the strange name, and desperate to pronounce it correctly and thus not out myself as some hapless tourist. I remember the dense swirling/whooshing sound as the deep amber liquid was forced through the gooseneck of the beer engine, through the tightly fitted plastic "sparkler" nozzle, and finally, in a frothing crescendo, into my waiting pint glass. I remember anxiously waiting for the head to settle into a densely packed froth, and raising the glass to my nostrils. The aroma of toffee and caramelised raisins is still so fresh in my mind that it could have been an hour ago rather than nearly four years ago. Most of all though, I remember the taste. What a taste. Those who think English Bitters are boring have clearly never drunk a well kept example in a nice environment. This was everything it should have been and more. This was the archetypal Best Bitter. Stronger, more full, and with a richer complexity than the basic Ordinary Bitter, so named with typical British understatement. Yes, Workie Ticket was one of three mindblowing Bitter experiences I took home with me from my last UK visit.

Because of that, the flavours are etched in my mind, and so it was an interesting and happy experience comparing that memory with the bottled product. Hardy hadn't tried this beer, so it was also a pleasure to share it with him and see that I wasn't alone in my positive reaction. The beer poured darker than I recall, almost into the deep mahogany brown. The head was a creamy white, and settled to a dense cushion which persisted down the glass and laced beautifully. Those same toffee and raisin aromas I so fondly recall were there in spades, and I started to wax lyrical about the beer and my trip only to be brought back to reality as Hardy shot me a withering look and asked if we could actually drink the stuff. He had a point, but I was frightened of destroying the memory. I needn't have worried.

The flavour started off with a deep home-baked-bread maltyness, swiftly layering caramel and burnt toffee ("Werthers Originals!" said Hardy) on top, as some herbal hop notes began to creep in, and finally there was a hint of chocolate. As I swallowed, the hop bitterness began to assert itself, and the finish was dry and quenching. This is most certainly a pint I could have drunk all evening. Our bottle showed some small signs of having travelled half way around the globe, but these were limited to a very light oxidised note (slight "wet cardboard") and the complexity of the beer meant that we hardly noticed.

A "workie ticket", in Geordie vernacular, is a bit of a trouble-maker. While I reckon that description is more likely to fit those who imbibe large quantities of that more well-known Geordie fight-fuel (Newcassel broon like, reet man?) I can certainly see this beer causing trouble for anyone who tries to stop me having another!

Avec Les Bons Voeux

Posted By HopMaster on Friday 07 June, 2013

 375ml Bottle

Today I took another trip around the world via beer. Today's journey led me to one of the top beer countries in the world - Belgium. Brasserie Dupont is a brewery that's been around for a long long time. Originally founded in 1844 (but having ties back longer), the brewery has been producing and exporting beer ever since.

This brewery doesn't produce a lot of different kinds of beers but they take great pride in what beers they do produce.

Today I had the pleasure of enjoying their Bons Voeux.

When you pop the cork (yes, cork) of this guy and pour it into your glass, you get a big old pile of foam. It's a very carbonated beer that fills up your glass quickly. It pours a very cloudy light yellow color that you can't see through at all.

There isn't a ton of smell other than a light citrus note. When you dunk your head into this beer you get a bit of wheaty spiciness. It's lighter bodied beer with a good amount of bitterness tucked in there. It almost feels like they ducked a spoonful of white pepper in this beer before bottling. It's a decently dry for a beer and you get more of the orange peel than the orange.

This beer comes in at 9.5% ABV but you'd never know from tasting it. The booze is masked very nicely in the bitterness.

I like this beer. It's definitely not an everyday drinker but it should have it's place in your beer fridge.
Dupont Avec les Bons Voeux is currently available to purchase from here.

Schneider Aventinus Weizen-Eisbock

Posted By HopMaster on Wednesday 22 May, 2013

 330ml Bottle

The Wheat Doppelbock of Bavaria also named Aventinus is a powerful beast from Kelheim, Germany.

This beer will slap you across the face with a big old bag full of flavor.

When I first got this beer I wasn't sure what to expect. Its purple label with some old dude on it made me think think that I was getting into some sort of thick stout. But on the label it's a weizen eisbock. What the hell is that? Well it literally means "wheat ice bock".

So should you buy this beer? 100% yes. This beer is awesome.

It pours a dark cloudy mess with a good bit of head. The smell you get is a big old malty sandwich.

When you first pour this guy down your throat you get tons of flavor. Lots and lots going on here. It's almost like a nice banana sandwich. No real hops or anything but more on the wheaty , kinda fruity, almost even...buttery side.

This beer is strong so be careful. It comes in at 12% ABV but you wouldn't really know by drinking it. One is awesome, number 2 is going to do some damage.

This beer is very very well balanced. Upon finishing it I had a glass with some sediment at the bottom.

It's the best beer I have had this year so far. You should be buying it right now.

Meantime London Pale Ale

Posted By HopMaster on Wednesday 15 May, 2013

 330ml Bottle

Cheerio! How about a pint?

Meantime Brewing takes a dives in the hop pile by taking Goldings and Cascade hops to produce London Pale Ale. This London style pale is produced in London and comes in at 4.3% ABV.

When I first got this bottle, I noticed the artwork. It looks like a nice summer day in a park in London somewhere. Hopefully, it describes the beer pretty well. So, let's crack this guy open.

It pours a nice golden color with a little head that disappears quickly. Not much of an aroma coming from this and not the typical smell you'd get from a sack full of cascades.

The first sip brings on a bit of a peppery hopness but not what you would expect coming from the smell. It's rather thin and has some bitter overtones.

This is definitely not a hop monster and is more like your typical English pale ales. It's not bad though. Not a lot going on in this beer but the bitterness at the end makes it a little interesting.

I think the lovely artwork on the front of the bottle describes is nicely. Grab a couple of these and a book for a nice afternoon in the park.

Unabashed Patriotism

Posted By Thomas and Hardy on Monday 22 April, 2013

 500ml Bottle

There are two things you need to know about my friend Hardy. The first is that he loves hops. That's hardly a rare quality amongst the imbiberati. It's much more difficult to find a craft beer fan who claims not to love hops. Hardy's devotion to Humulus Lupulus borders on religious fervour. There's a hop bine altar in his garage. I'd go on, but you probably get the idea by now.

The second thing about Hardy is that, when he was still fairly new to craft beer, he had a deep and abiding loathing of dark beers (porters in particular), brought on by some early bad experiences with a few poorly crafted examples. He got better.

The beer we're talking about today represents a bit of a paradox for Hardy. It's a dark beer, packed to the brim with amazingly fresh and zesty US grown hops. Of course, Hardy is long past his fear of the dark, but I'm still amused by the fact that this beer is one of his favourites.

Croucher Patriot pours a deep black, though its crystalline clarity allows glints of ruby to show through. The head is a regal crown of frothy off-white foam which persists well, gripping the sides of the glass until the very last drop. The nose is an intense and mouthwatering mix of toffee, treacle, and chocolate, which is smacked into submission by an aromatic mix of passionfruit, grapefruit, and mango from the Simcoe and Amarillo hop blend. On the palate, the beer is perfectly integrated, with a conflux of roast/smoke, chocolate, and fruit salad. The balance between sweet malt and hop bitterness is magical. The hops dance a ballet over the malt, then settle on your palate after the beer has passed on. In true Croucher style, you will be left with the most delicious of burps!

It's not just Hardy who is obsessed with this beer. Earlier this year, while faced with a tap lineup which included many of NZ's best and brightest craft beers, I went for Patriot. Twice. It really is that damn tasty. With the current USA hop shortage, it might be a while before more of this is available, so snap it up if you see it. The hop character will become more subdued with time, but the brilliance of this beer will continue to shine. Erm. Blackly.

Gavroche Brasserie de Saint-Sylvestre

Posted By HopMaster on Sunday 14 April, 2013

 330ml Bottle

Straight from France comes Gavroche Brasserie de Saint-Sylvestre. This beer is conditioned in the bottle so that means you get all the yeasty goodness to yourself inside.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I popped this one open. When I did though, this thing exploded out of the bottle. It was extremely carbonated. I had to rush this guy into a glass while the bottle started spouting out. It pours a nice dark amber color. Jurrasic park's John Hammond would be jealous of this amber.

Once I got a good whiff of it, my nose was filled with yeast and malt. Very bready beer. You get a little sweetness in there as well.

First sip hit my tongue and got the same taste - bready maltiness. At 8.5% abv, you can surely taste it although it's not that potent. You get a mix of sweetness in there as well. There is almost no aftertaste with this beer.

I wasn't overly impressed by this beer. It was a pretty mellow beer that would probably be good with a nice autumn meal but not something I would order at a bar. Not a bad beer by any means but you kind of have to be in the mood for it.

It might be interesting to take this beer and see how it tastes after a couple years in your basement. If you are up to the challenge.

By Jupiler!

Posted By Thomas and Hardy on Wednesday 10 April, 2013

 250ml Bottle

Winter is traditionally the time for reminiscence. Something about the inclement weather, and the longing for warmer times possibly tickles the nostalgia area of the brain. Whatever the actual cause, it is with some surprise that with Summer's arrival, I find myself pulled back through time's misty corridors to a trip to Belgium I took a few years back. Allow me to take you with me, while Hardy glares at his watch and looks annoyed.

It was a particularly warm spring afternoon, and my wife and I were on a mission to walk to the St. Sixtus abbey and associated cafe/bar in Westvleteren. The nearest the train could get was Poperinge, a lovely little town smack in the middle of the hop growing region of West Flanders, near Ypres (or Ieper, to be more politically linguistically correct for the Dutch-speaking area). We made the long walk, drank deeply of the often acclaimed "best beer in the world", and then walked the long road back to the train station. That's another story, but as we returned, the fog of beery desire momentarily vanquished, I began to notice a few things which had passed me by before due to not being beer related. Chief amongst these was that there were vending machines everywhere. Some sold newspapers. Some sold pastries and breads, and some sold... yes... beer! The beer which was dispensed from these coin-hungry metal wonders was Jupiler. Of course, I had to have one.

Jupiler is everywhere in Belgium. It's like a Belgian Stella Artois. And yes, I know you see what I did there, and I don't care! The ubiquity of the stuff had led me to ignore it. After all, it's generally a pretty good rule of thumb that if a beer is that heavily advertised and available everywhere, it's usually because people have to be (and are) paid to stock it. Depth of flavour isn't often an attribute of these beers. Jupiler both conforms to and breaks this rule, because although it might be boring by Belgian standards, it really is a well brewed and tasty lager.

Pouring a pale gold, with a creamy white head, Jupiler throws a mild but pleasant aroma of hay. Unchallenging on the palate, it leans into the sweetness side of the balance equation, but melds in a nice amount of herbal hops and a lightly bitter finish. The mouthfeel is soft, and almost creamy, with the gentle carbonation making this very easy to drink. For the ultimate in culture clash, throw some Snoop Dogg on, take your shirt off (Sorry Hardy, I'll pay for your corrective eye surgery, I swear), and drink deeply of this "boring" draught on a hot summer's day. After you've enjoyed that experience, try and tell me that eleven million Belgians are wrong!

Get yourself some Jupiler, and make it your lawn-mowing, gangsta rap listening, thirst busting beer of the Summer.

Ommegang Three Philosophers

Posted By HopMaster on Monday 08 April, 2013

 355ml Bottle

From Cooperstown, NY, Ommegang brings us beers that aren't overhopped or overhyped. They specialize in Belgian-style ales that are made from the finest hops, malts, and spices.

Three Philosophers is their big quadrupel ale coming in at 9.8% ABV. These beers are labeled by year. I was able to sample a 2010 bottle.

What is cool about this beer is that it is a blend of a strong ale and an ale with cherries (only 2% though).

It pours a very dark amber, almost brownish color, with a nice tight head. From the first whiff you can tell there is a lot going on in this beer. You get hit with malts and cherries. The first sip brought a big malty taste followed by a little bit of fruit and a little bit of spice. There is a lot going on with this beer. Each sip you can pick out different flavors.

Even though it does have a high alcohol content, you wouldn't know by drinking it. It's a very well balanced beer that can take some time to sip.

It's probably not something you want to sit down and have a bunch of but it would be a great dinner beer.

Yeastie Boys Xerrex

Posted By HopMaster on Tuesday 26 March, 2013

 330ml Bottle

This is a review that I got really excited about. I'm a huge fan of Yeastie Boys' Rex Attitude so reviewing the bigger brother was something I was looking forward to.

Let's take a step back. You need to decide if you are ready for Xerrex (or just regular Rex). This beer is not something that you just pop open and drink. You have to prepare yourself for the beverage you are about to consume.

"Why?" might you ask? Well, I've heard this beer described as dirt-like and also that it "tastes like an ashtray".

So now that we have gotten that out of the way, let's talk about this bad ass beer.

It pours a nice golden color. Nothing out of the ordinary. It looks pretty nice. Some nicecarbonation that creates a decent head.

Then you get the smell. Man does it come on strong. This beer is made with 100% peated malt so it's very "scotchy". Some people might just stop here but if you are in for the challenge, you'll go further.

Don't even attempt to take a big swig of this. Nice and slow. It has so much flavor going on that you'll do a double take. This is where the opinions will split. A lot of people will say that "flavor" is dirty wood mixed with a big cigar but the true lovers of Rex will just say that it's liquid love.

So final thoughts on double Rex - When I first had this, I thought it was going to be more intense than regular Rex. I was wrong though, this beer is very well balanced and much easier to drink. It's smoother and doesn't have as much of a bite as the regular. It has a higher ABV though (regular - 7%, xerrex - 10%) but if you put these 2 beers next to each other, you couldn't tell. Actually regular tastes a bit stronger.

I'm a huge fan, I love this beer. I could drink it every night. Probably not more than 1 bottle at a time though.

Hot Can on Bottle Action (with Brewdog Punk IPA)

Posted By Thomas and Hardy on Wednesday 20 March, 2013

Hot Can on Bottle Action (with Brewdog Punk IPA)

Oi! Oi! Oi! Onetwofreefour KRAAAANG!

OK, so neither myself nor Hardy are particularly punk. I may have been known to thrash the seminal (ahem) Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols, and I'm fairly sure I've seen Hardy sneak some Ramones into a playlist here and there between his DJ Shadow and Deftones tracks, but no, we're not punks. We do love a good IPA though, and perhaps in a small nod to the punk ethos, a good fight. So here it is then:

  • One beer!
  • Two containers!
  • An audience of millions two! (The other halves)
  • A pair of slightly inebriated nitwits!

Let's get ready to rrrrrrrrGET SUED FOR TRADEMARK ABUSE! (Sorry Mr. Buffer, sir).

Brewdog's Punk IPA has changed a fair bit from the day it first swaggered ashore, pleasured our women, abused our pets, and gobbed on our carpet. It used to be raw and angry, but not particularly likable. Harsh, feisty, and determined to get you to admit you just couldn't handle it. Perhaps it is sinking into the punk equivalent of gentle middle age now, listening to some Neil Young, and muttering about how Green Day wouldn't know punk if it nutted them in the face. It's just a much more pleasant drinking experience now. The hops are still there in spades, smashing out four chords in quick succession on your palate, but now you've got the fat bass notes of bready malt backing them nicely, and the drumming of the alcohol seems to have pulled back to the occasional fill instead of a full-on double-pedal-hands-flying attack. Very drinkable, and very delicious.

Before this metaphor gets strained any further, it's probably time to talk about the difference in packaging. The "big boys" of brewing have done cans a disservice. Hardy and I have heard all the cliches. "Cans make the beer taste metallic". "Cans are for cheap nasty beer". "Cans make the beer go warm". There's probably a historical nugget of truth in most of these, but let me assure you, the can is the far superior package for craft beer. While both forms of Punk IPA were pretty damn tasty after their long boat ride to get here, the hops had backed off a little too much in the bottle, and while still a lovely beer, it was a lot more malt forward. There were also hints of oxidation present, which often happens to such hop-laden beasts, and didn't really detract from the beer, but still... it's not quite how the brewer intended it to taste, I'm sure.

The canned product was zesty and fresh tasting, leaving a lasting impression of grapefruit marmalade on lightly toasted bread. Hardy and I both could have drunk this until we passed out. Very punk!

Some can mythology debunked:

  • Tastes metallic? Nope. Cans are lined with a plastic coating.
  • For cheap beer? Well, perhaps, but they certainly showcase craft beer nicely!
  • Warms the beer? Pour it into a freaking glass already! Don't miss all those wonderful aromas.

In addition, cans block light totally, so no nasty skunking. Cans are impervious to air, so oxidation is minimised. Cans are quickly chilled to your preferred drinking temperature. Finally, cans provide a nice canvas for aesthetically pleasing labelling! OK, so that's not particularly punk. Feel free to stick a safety pin through that last point.

No matter which you choose, you'll be assured of a great beer, but in the fight? The bottle lies bleeding in the corner while the can gobs on it's head. The only way to see what we're talking about is to try this at home!

Coronado Idiot IPA

Posted By HopMaster on Thursday 14 March, 2013

 355ml Bottle Ron Burgundy: Oh, we're going there.

Pleasure Town, USA otherwise known as Coronado. In this small beach side community outside of San Diego resides the makers of this idiotically hoppy beer. Idiot IPA is an Imperial IPA from Coronado Brewing Company's Crown series.

This beer packs the hops in. These guys must be "idiots" to try to put 3 pounds of hops into every barrel but they did it.

When you crack open this beer you can smell the hops pour out. It has a very pleasant hoppy fruity smell that West Coast IPA's are famous for.

The pour is a darker gold color with minimal head. The first sip coats your mouth with a smooth peppery grapefruit taste. Being an Imperial IPA, it is very full bodied but still very drinkable. Not a lot of alcohol taste in this beer even though it has a high ABV.

The aftertaste is where it is at though. This beer leaves behind a blanket of hops that you can still taste after you've downed the beer. We're talking sticky hop juice joy.

The only thing I really didn't like about this beer was the bottle. You have this nice hoppy beer inside but the label is just their logo. With a name like "Idiot IPA" you could have lots of fun with the bottle art but this one is pretty dull.

If you like IPAs and you aren't afraid of hops, then this beer is for you. I'm sure 2 or 3 of these could disappear from your glass very easily on a nice summer day. Be careful though, at 8.5% ABV "this unfiltered 'San Diego IPA' has been known to reduce even the most intelligent to a blithering 'idiot'".

North Coast Old No. 38 Stout

Posted By Zoe Evans on Saturday 02 March, 2013

 355ml Bottle

"Lots of roasty goodness" the No.38 stout (named after a retired California Western Railroad steam engine) holds true to the qualities of a good stout and executes them brilliantly.

With silver and gold awards to its name, the beverage tasting institute of Chicago highly recommends it.

The No.38 stout is characterized by its smooth black liquid, heady aromas of malt, coffee, chocolate with just a hint of sweet caramel and molasses. With its long lasting slightly creamy head, smooth lingering flavor, this stout holds well until the last drop, completely satisfies; all the while leaving you pondering a second glass.

This stout is a must try and has been hailed as "a wonderful ale. Possibly the best stout in America" Michael Jackson, KCBS food news.

Three Boys Wild Plum Ale

Posted By Zoe Evans on Monday 25 February, 2013

 330ml Bottle

Brewed in Christchurch with wild cherry plums from the family farm, the three boys wild plum ale is like a time warp into summer.

A limited seasonal release of the highest standard the three boys wild plum ale is an exciting sight. Wrapped in turquoise crepe paper keeps this beer slightly mysterious.

Poured into a glass for the full experience, this ale has a lovely pink honey color and a good lasting head. With a strong delicious aroma of stone fruit with plum and honey notes, it truly is a divine drop.

It is sweet, warm and crisp to the palate, with a dry finish and slight lingering fruity aftertaste. This is a complex beer, well crafted, with an excellent balance between the bitter flavors of the hops and sweet flavors of fruits, three boys wild plum ale would make a good year round beer, by the winter fire or summer soiree.

De Molen Hel & Verdoemenis (Hell and Damnation)

Posted By HopMaster on Wednesday 20 February, 2013

 330ml Bottle

De Molen brewery started in 1697 in the small town of Bodegravenin the Netherlands. That's a long time ago. That's also the same time the witch trails ended in Scotland and America.

Just like the evils that plagued Scotland and America at that time also live inside the bottles of this Brewery. De Molen's Hel & Verdoemenis (Hell and Damnation) is as dark and evil of a beer as they come.

This Imperial Stout comes in a 330ml bottle with a very plain label and wax sealed top. When you first pour the 10.2% ABV brew into your glass you can see how dark this beer is. The jet black liquid produces almost no head but it has a very strong aroma of chocolate, coffee, and alcohol.

When you go to take your first sip, the smell hits you right in the face. The beer itself is very complex with chocolate and coffee tones. Being as strong of a beer as it is, you candefinitelytaste the alcohol. It is a little sweet but you can also taste the bitterness brought on by the hops.

It's a rather thin beer for how big of a beer this is. It really doesn't coat the glass too much.

I was really excited to try this beer. From the look of the bottle and the huge ABV, it was sure to be an interesting beer. It took me a rather long time to finish one bottle. There is a lot going on so each sip was a little adventure into the darkness of Hell and the everlasting Damnation.

Overall, this is a very rich beer that has a lot of taste and packs quite a punch. Probably not an everyday drinker but definitely a great way to pass those long winter nights with some friends in the Netherlands.

Flying Dog Simcoe Single Hop

Posted By Thomas and Hardy on Tuesday 05 February, 2013

Flying Dog, from Maryland, USA, are a brewery who really get what makes beer special. They get the social aspect. They get that beer is way more than just a vector for alcohol delivery. Most of all, they get that beer is fun.

Right from first glance at the Ralph Steadman drawn bottle labels, you can tell the brewery embraces the spirit of "Gonzo". That is, not to merely tell a story, but to become the story and inject it with life affirming weirdness! The label text speaks of the beer itself as an ingredient in an inspired and lighthearted tale, while the art reflects a twisted "cartoon nightmare" version of the words. The two blend and make you yearn to open the bottle and become part of the story yourself.

But is the beer as crazy as the package? Well, yes. Yes it is. In spades. It pours a beautiful glowing golden, with tiny (and I do mean tiny) suspended particles of yeast, like dust motes in a shaft of sunlight. I've never seen a beer present quite like this before, and it is a thing of beauty. The firm white crown of foam isn't too dense that the enticing aroma of fresh peaches can't sneak out and get the drinker prepared for a treat.

On first sip, this is the very definition of Imperial. This beer is big and brash. It commands your attention in a very imperious manner. There's a big hit of evident alcohol (well, it is 10% abv) riding atop some lovely tropical fruit (mangoes, peaches) and an earthy orange presence which ties nicely to the almost "crusty bread" malt profile. There's a solid bitterness in the finish which is reminiscent of US style double IPAs, but it never becomes too much. It's on the bitter side of balanced, and there's a warming boozyness to the finish which had Hardy and I feeling quite convivial after sharing a 330ml bottle.

As the beer warmed, Hardy proclaimed that it was reminding him of a liquid peach pie, and who was I to argue with the man? The world needs a gonzo peach pie with a shot of vodka, served in a tulip glass, and that's almost exactly what Flying Dog have provided.

While I think this beer would go wonderfully with a sweet dessert, such as a peach cobbler, or a slice of lemon cake, it's a beautiful and complex thing in its own right, and I'd enjoy it as such.

Thomas and Hardy are a bibulous pair of wayfarerers who often cross paths and palates on their eternal search for flavour. They hail from Here and There respectively, and often fight over which has the best pubs.

Mata Taniwha

Posted By HopMaster on Sunday 17 June, 2012

 330ml Bottle

Dirt. Delicious, delicious dirt. Smoke and maybe even...meat?

That's what you are getting into when you pop the top of this bad boy. Taniwha is probably Mata's most interesting beer coming in at a strong 7.0% Abv. These guys are producing award winning beers from the Bay of Plenty, right here in New Zealand.

This limited release ale has a lot going on. It's definitely not for everyone. You might be caught off guard if you don't know what you are getting into.

There is so much going on with this beer. It has a very smoky taste and not a lot of carbonation. There's also a distinct peaty flavor in this beer that you could even mistake it for some watered down scotch. Very much a slow sipper. On top of that, this beer is aGold Medal winner of the BrewNZ Awards 2010.

I would proceed with caution with this beer. There aren't a lot beers on the market like this one.

So grab some nicely smoked ham and a bottle of this guy and enjoy a nice summer BBQ.

Brewdog 77 Lager

Posted By HopMaster on Sunday 06 May, 2012

 330ml Bottle

If you have never heard of Brewdog then you are missing out on some of the world's most extreme beers. If you have, then you know their beers can pack quite a flavorful punch.

The one thing I really enjoy about the Brewdog beer company is their willingness to go beyond the limits. Putting ultra strong beer into animalcarcasses is pretty bad ass. Unfortunately their Juxtaposition Pilsner doesn't have that same affect.

It pours a nice clear gold body with a decent head that is pretty standard. When you sink your nose into it you get your average pilsner with a hint of hops, which is unusual for this kind of beer.

The first taste is that you get a pretty normal German style Pils but then a little aftertaste of hops hits. Not much, but a little taste of the deliciousness that could be with this beer. It's a light fresh beer with a crisp taste that you would expect from a Pilsner.

When you compare this beer to it's siblings, it doesn't have much to offer. When you compare this beer to similar Euro Pilsners, it would trump them.

Overall I would say this would be your average European Pilsner with some hoppiness aftertaste tucked away in there. I would take it over a standard Heineken but then again, I normally wouldn't order a Heineken.

Epic Flying Nun 30 Year Ale

Posted By HopMaster on Saturday 03 March, 2012

 500ml Bottle

New ZealandIndependent record company Flying Nun started 30 years ago in 1981. This year for their 30th birthday, they are going balls to the wall with a bunch of shows all throughout New Zealand in the month of November. And what kind of party would be complete with out beer? Flying Nun has had some commemorative beer made over the years but this year they approached Epic Brewery in Auckland.

Flying Nun asked Epic to create a beer in tribute for their anniversary. Epic was honored and came up with a very drinkable craft beer just for Flying Nun.

I had theprivilegeof drinking this beer in a 500ml bottle. The bottle itself is very cool. It has the Flying Nun logo on the front with the label the shape of a record.

The pour is amazing. A nice foamy head that dissipates rather quickly. It's a beautiful golden copper color. When you get your first whiff you get hit with hops but not overwhelmed.

So what does this guy taste like? Well it's ridiculously easy to drink. It's a very refreshing ale that goes down very smooth. BUT...there is a whole outer taste that is all hops. It's very light but you can still taste the hops minutes after drinking. It's a really well balanced beer coming in at 5.5% ABV beer. This is a beer for all types of beer drinkers.

So when you make your way to one of the many Flying Nun shows across the country this month, pass on that crappy venue lager and grab one (or 3) of these beers, you won't be disappointed.