Twok untamed red panda ale (8%)
I have about half a slab of this stuff at home at the moment, and have been getting into it quite a bit over the past 6-12 months, so is surprising I only just now get around to making my tasting notes on this beer.
General Impresions of the Beer Over Time
I always get a bit scared and excited when I experience a bold beer like this. While this isn’t a big beer, there is great depth in the combination and layering of ingredients, and really shows the potential that is possible. While this beer seems to have integrated well the flavours and worked hard at the process to create a beer structure capable of containing many flavours, I get scared as it is a fine line in using that potential to create a flavourful, but well balanced beer, or complete insanity where flavours spike too much. But when the former occurs, of course I get excited (ie the recent Mikkeller Black in peated whiskey barrels).
The first taste is a bit of a roller coaster as the caramel malt hits the tip of the tongue before nobel hops brings light fruity/citrusy flavours (ginger/pineapple/lime?) across the midpalate, but then builds as the stronger hops kick in layer upon layer to create an almost overpowering crescendo of flavour . While this, with some warming alcohol flavours do linger in aftertaste, there is a great cleansing finish to this beer that almost makes it easy drinking, and so it is not long before you are ready and wanting another sip. After the initial flavour journey, the beer settles a little in subsequent tastings to make it more easily enjoyable, as the malt flavour grows as the beer warms.
There is a solid, smooth texture in this beer that while the hops and alcohol do water down slightly, with the caramel malt flavour reminds me of a Kilkenny. The use of subtle hoping on the midpalate brings to mind a Holgate Extra Special Bitter, while the later hoping flavour I find hard to pin anything to compare against (I don’t have much experience with hops). Overall, the closest comparison is towards a Holgate ESB or a Bridge Road Bling IPA, as their hoppy but cleansing finish remind me of this beer. Bold, but well balanced, the flavour profile doesn’t spike but generally grows from malt sweet, to fruity, floral, then the intense/heightened earthy/woody flavour before the texture again helps slip it down the throat with a cleansing aftertaste. I could see this beer exporting well to Europe or the UK, the latter for being well known for English Bitters
So, while I do have this in the bottle, like most beers, it is better to experience it at the pub, so the specific tasting will be twoks on tap.
Tasting @ Yah Yah’s (8/8/10)
There is a nice tight foamy head that dissipates slightly but holds well after the pour, on top of a red-copper body that screams malt to me. There is an initial sweetness in smell coming from the malt, and some floral/fruity notes before the more powerful hops hit the nose. Possibly also a slight alcohol aroma, but is fleeting.
On first taste, the floral hops come through (flower) as it seems to take a while for the creamy malt body to settle (this can happen with a Kilkenny like beer from the tap, but is worth the wait), but this is ‘fixed’ in subsequent tasting as the malt stabilises. There is some ‘raging’ intensity through the middle then the mellowing begins (6/8 song). The finish was pleasantly spiked with the reminiscing of other beers (sweet).
One thing that can make or break a drinking experience is the environment you drink in. Yah Yah’s didn’t have great music on offer and the lighting had the potential to ‘skunk’ the beer, but luckily this beer is capable of working in many environments, with focusing the drinker on the journey within the beer. The beer seems to be resilient and flexible enough to work for multiple situations and people.
With hops generally masking alcohol flavours, this 45 minute session gets you pretty intoxicated without you noticing, as higher alcohol and easy drinking mix dangerously. While the malt creates a great structure to this beer to contain the potential overpowering hop flavours, it is the hops that stand out most in this beer, and push the boundary of taste in beer. The steady, layering of hops build flavour upon flavour, and the enigmatic quirkiness of it is intriguing. I am caught between chewy, chin stroking contemplation and easy-drinking refreshness. Even after many tastings, I am yet to figure it out, but will keep enjoying it even if I never do.
On a personal note, my favourite moments with this beer are when the beer is allowed time to warm on the tongue. The caramel comes through nicely and both alcohol and hops build delicately, leading to a dissipation to mellowness in me that I quite enjoy. I am also lucky enough to have had one of the brewers move in with me recently, and so looking forward to having closer contact with future brews that are offered by this team.
So, whether you are in Cuba, or on a Merry-Go-Round and feel like there is a Falling Sky on the Flower and Snails, and keep thinking ‘ah shit, Here Come the Sharks’, It Won’t End That Way as you can Fix It with a She’ll Be Right attitude and a Twoks Untamed Red Panda Ale, to get you back to feeling Luckier than Fish. No Matter What!
PS: In thinking of a label for this beer, this photo of red panda cutely attacking a camera would be appropriate.