I think this photo en-capsulates my relief at finally being able to try this beer on a visit to The Local Taphouse. Thanks to my mate Cam for taking the photo for me in this state, and sharing my first taste of this beer on tap. As you can see there is a generous creamy brown head over the motor oil black body. Was picking up a trace of chocolate and liquorice on the nose while it was cold, with a slight hint of hops to create some depth in aroma. Once it warms though the alcohol really stands up over it. In the mouth there is that dark sweet malt hit before a somewhat dulled liquorice comes through that sits a little heavy before the alcohol comes through the clean up the palate. The mouthfeel was creamy but not as much as I expected, which left me a little dissapointed, and after tasting a fair few Russian Imperial Stouts, found it to be fairly easy drinking for the style. Again, as it warmed up, the alcohol became a lot more noticeable in flavour and sensation, but didn't quite reach that level where the warmth rises from your stomach, into your lungs and a contented sigh as the alcohol rises out through your mouth and also up into your brain.
I then took the opportunity to try it again at the Royston on Friday night, and have to say, it displayed better than when I had it earlier. There was definitely more creaminess, and having let it warm up this time around, the dulled liquorice on the midpalate was diminished as the alcohol came through earlier. Having tasted a few other beers before getting to this one, the alcohol did hit me a bit harder. Overall, I would say an easy drinking version of the style which is great for the general aussie public that may not have experienced this style of beer before. Probably an even more delicately flavoured version would be the Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, with chocolate and vanilla aspects coming into it. Unfortunately I personally like a bit more depth in this style, so would rather a Moo Brew Vintage Imperial Stout on tap over this, with bigger malt characteristics and that contented alcohol sigh I spoke of before. Also, as I found recently in a taste off, the Clout Stout from Western Australia also bodes well for an aussie version of this style of beer.
Ok, now to some other beers I have been 'puttin down me gullet'. While I was at The Local, I tried a few other beers on the tasting paddle. Was interested to see that they had a lambic beeron tap, so made sure to get that while continuing my education on IPA's. I was initially told to have the lambic last, but seeing the tradition is to have this beer before or over food, I had it first. Ok, Lindemans maybe isn't the most traditional lambic brewers in Belgium, but to be confronted with a kriek with almost no sourness at all, and a very sugary sweetness that had me thinking I was drinking liquified cherry sherbert, I was a little disappointed. The red of the beers was so bright it looked like an alcopop you would see chicks drinking, unfortunately though with an alcohol content of only 4% and a price of $13 for 310ml, I doubt that would work for many of them. While I do enjoy the Faro Lindemans produce, and yet to try the better versions of their lambics (ie, cuvee range), I was well and truely ready for my meal by the time I finished this beer.
While I tucked into the 3 beer burger, I tried my luck on the IPA's. The Murray's Icon Double IPA has a good blend of malt and hops, and again, found this to be just another example of this brewery not putting a foot wrong with the beers they display. The Red Hill Black IPA showed me more of the muddled liquorice flavours that took away my enjoyment of the Imperial Stout, but the big winner was the Doctors Orders Pulse Belgian Oatmeal IPA. Ok, so we all know by now my 'wuss' status with hops, and while the oatmeal did help to soften the flavours in this beer, I was delighted to see a great delicate balance of hops and malt, along with a sense of banana from the Belgian yeast here. An intriguing combination of ingredients has brought about a beer I would happily recommend anyone just getting into IPAs to try, or people like myself that appreciate a subtler style of IPA. Ok, the banana could be a bit strange for a first timer, but this was limited while drinking it cold. Still, I reckon Cam also found this one enjoyable, and I hope he doesn't mind me saying he is probably slightly limited in his exposure to beer...well at least compared to me. So to find a beer we both enjoyed equally was a good find. I hear this beer will be going into growlers at Slowbeer soon, so will have to go and get me some of that when it is tapped.
I have also picked up a bottle each of the two Brooklyn Brewery beers that have made it to our shores (Lager and Local 1). Sharing a lager with Damian at Purvis, there is a nice light honeyed malt sensation on the front of the tongue before what seemed like a dulled hop flavour came over it that hung around a bit in aftertaste along with some dryness. I found some similarities between this and the last lager of this type I had (Thunder Road Fullsteam Lager) with some nice malt up front and the dry finish (though not as dry as the Thunder Road), but their was a bit more in the body and mouthfeel of the Brooklyn (expected seeing the Thunder Road is more of a pilsner in my opinion). Not sure if this dulled hop finish is intended (I doubt it) in the Brooklyn, but have another bottle of it to try and find out later on.
I also tried a Cuvee Des Trolls while I was there. Not sure if it was over carbonation mixed with some citrus zest/spice, but after a spritz of this the light malt body evens out on the midpalate and then easily cleansed with alcohol on the back. Easy drinking apart from the 7% alcohol which may hit the unsuspected drinker.
While I was at the Royston on Friday, while I was waiting for my Red Hill Imperial Stout to warm up, I tried the latest batches of Bridge Road Bling IPA, and the 2 Brothers Voodoo Baltic Porter. The Bling had a bit more hop zing (or 'tang' as someone I spoke to about it at the bar said) than I remember having last time I tried it, which was a little overpowering for someone like me, but still has a nice freshness to it, even if the malt doesn't quite carry (or dull as it may be in my case) it through. The Voodoo though was tasting good, maybe not quite the weather to enjoy a dark lager in, but still with enough roasted character in the malt, but with a light body so any newcomers to dark beers could appreciate without the fabled weight in the stomach that turns off many a straight pale lager drinking from turning to the dark side of beer.
Alright, I have said enough. Happy drinking to you all, especially to Rowan, whose birthday it was yesterday. I hope you enjoy brewing the Russian Imperial Stout as much as you liked drinking ours.