the ablution block

24 December 2007

June Beer of the Month: Downton Chimera IPA

Not a lot of notes from June. I'm not sure what I was up to but, I guess, it didn't involve much drinking. Perhaps I was brewing a bit back then, who knows...

Although I tasted some interesing Saisons (possibly the world's most disputed style), it was a classic English IPA that stood out... Downton's Chimera IPA:
Tasted 01/06/2007. 500ml bottle, Rumble’s. Left to vent for a couple of hours, after some pretty volcanic strong English ales in the past. Just on the pale side of golden. Creamy white head tries hard, but doesn’t stand at chance at this alcohol level (though that might be a different story if it wasn’t cellar temp). Citrus and stonefruit blossom hops fill the nose at first, followed by a rich pale malt character that is slightly caramelly and certainly a little minerally. Warming alcohol becomes prominent. In the mouth it’s richly malty, with a strong sappy, almost steely, hop character. More mineral notes again, with a prominent fruity ester and alcohol character. Quite warming. Intensely bitter. Lingering. Did I say lingering? Barley sugars make an appearance at this stage too, hidden amongst the tongue-scraping bitterness.. A great beer to introuduce the concept of bitterness and a classic English IPA in my opinion. If DAB is the ex-girlfriend who remains your friend, this is the mate that nobody quite appreciates. Damn it’s bitter! (4.1/5.0).

Beer geek 'Stonch' (who kindly - and unknowingly -supplied the pic) backgrounds the Downton brewery, briefly, and agrees with the overall summation of the product. Very interesting, for you kiwis, is that the Downtown brewhouse is run by a brewer with a background at Hop Back and Fuller's. Colin Paige - head brewer of iconic New Zealand brewery Mac's - comes from the exact same pedigree.

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21 December 2007

May Beer of the Month: Murray's Imperial Stout

By May we had Ted sleeping through the night and I was beggining to recatch my hankering for the fermented one.

Jacqui Thomson, our good friend and the sister of wine writer Joelle, visited with a fist full of treats (Jacqui always comes with a bunch of interesting Australian craft beers and a good wine or two). Knappstein Reserve Lager stood out - the best use of Nelson Sauvin I've come across, thus far, and the single best Australian beer I'd tasted at that point.

Our other good friend Martin Bennett, of Twisted Hop fame, came to stay also. Martin was the driving force behind BrewNZ 2007 and - as a very generous man indeed - also tends to always bring a nice bag of surprises with him. Poplar Brown was the best of many goodies.

However, two tastings of an Imperial Stout were the highlights of my tasting month. The first was at a BJCP tasting at Brendon's, and the other was an excellent Imperial Stout tasting at Kieran's. The beer, which technically shoots wide of the Imperial Stout style (probably the hottest style amongst beer geeks at present), was on of the biggest surprises of my year. An Australian beer, brewed by a New Zealand brewer. Without further ado, I present Murray's Imperial Stout:
Tasted 31/05/2007. 750ml champagne-style bottle, steward’s choice from BrewNZ. Very lively, upon opening a light tan head comes foaming out of the bottle. Almost black, probably not quite as dark as a classic Imperial Stout. Nor is it as roasty or as hoppy... but wow!.... this is a really great beer. Cherry esters and woody notes play on the nose. Winy esters and rich malt characters are very well integrated in the mouth, where it’s less roasty than you’d expect. The finish is exceptionally smooth, with lingering fruit and malt sweetness. I ended up savouring it too much to take many notes. A string quartet, perhaps even a full orchestra, next to the screeching guitar solo of Pink’s Imperious Russian Stowt. I’ve got to get my hands on more from these guys. Keep it up guys. (4.2/5.0).

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April Beer of the Month: O'Hanlon's Royal Oak

Way back in April I was sleep deprived, and spending more time thinking about beer than actually tasting it. What I did taste (the likes of Kilkenny, Export Dry and a couple of Sam Adam's fruit beers) was about as appealing as getting up for Ted's midnight feeds.

One beer stood proudly - head, shoulders and beef-bellied torso above the rest: O'Hanlon's Royal Oak, a splendidly complex ESB.

I remember how tired I was in April (I'm almost that tired again now) and, frankly, I'm amazed that I had the capacity to actually string a senctence together. (note: real writers may suggest I've not quite achieved anything worthy of being called a sentence).

Anyway, here is my Royal Oak experience:
Tasted 26/04/2007. 500ml bottle from Rumble’s, Wellington. Pours an almost bright Doc Marten Cherry Red, with a very light tan airy head. Delightfully fruity nose: raisiny port notes mingle with a sweet whiff of lemonade. A hint of caramel, especially in the empty glass. Very soft in the mouth, and quite light, with just a touch of barley sweetness, more fruity esters and a toasty dry finish. Oaky notes linger on the palate, and I’m not pulling your leg here! Bitterness is very subdued, hop flavour almost non-existent besides a mild peppery spice. This one has really stood up to the travel and the shelf time. Excellent ESB, with all the complexity of a good single malt whisky. It really makes me want to have another look at their Port Stout.

I have since re-looked at the Port Stout but not yet actually got it to my lips. Sometime soon... perhaps?

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