Tag Archives: Ale

White Rabbit ‘Dark Ale’

White Rabbit 'Dark Ale'
White Rabbit 'Dark Ale'

I have to explain to people sometimes, at work, that if I compare something to Little Creatures Pale Ale, then I think that thing is a very good thing indeed. So I was curious to try something from White Rabbit, a new-ish operation outside of my beloved Melbourne, and sort of East Coast Cousin to the famous Creatures.

But when we had this at our stand at Beervana in August, I was a little meh about it. It was something of a misunderstood orphan, really. Unlike the Stone & Wood, Bridge Road and Coopers beers we had, the Rabbit didn’t have anyone from the brewery over to talk about it — and the name threw us locals a bit, too; by “Dark Ale”, they mean Brown Ale rather than anything Portery, or further South.1

In between having it at Beervana and having it on tap at work, my friend Glenn (a former colleague at the College of Surgeons in Melbourne) was in town and muled over a few interesting-looking bottles of beer for me, in what is becoming a neat little tradition (he’s repaid in Tour Guidery around Wellington’s Interesting Little Places). One of these was included, so I gave it another go. And was glad I did.

White Rabbit 'Dark Ale'
Diary II entry #17.1, White Rabbit 'Dark Ale'

Especially once you’re not expecting anything dark-dark (expectations can really do funny things to how you taste a beer), it presents itself as pleasantly rich but still nicely easy-drinking. Lots of malt character, and a interesting little sideline of a certain sort of mustiness and a subtle fruity wineyness. This bottle was almost-alarmingly sedimented, which also leant a nice big smooth layer of foam. It was interestingly-divisive, on tap at work; much of the Beer Nerdy crowd didn’t really go for it, but it was surprisingly good (given their usual prejudices against Australian beer and things darker than gold) at winning over more ‘mainstream’ drinkers. I do always enjoy stumbling upon effective ‘evangelism’ beers; seeing people have that ‘wow, this is tasty’ moment when you give them something that goes against their preconceptions is a very rewarding thing, as a bartending Beer Nerd.

White Rabbit 'Dark Ale'
Diary II entry #17.2, White Rabbit 'Dark Ale'

Verbatim: White Rabbit ‘Dark Ale’ 30/9/10 muled over by Glenn 4.9% 330ml From memory, this is Little Creatures’ baby brother in Healesville, outside the beloved Melb. We had it at our stand at the Beer Festival, but it was a bit of a misunderstood orphan, as none of its people were over. I was a little meh about it, but I think the name threw my expectations — it’s really a brown ale, and as one, is rather good. Quite rich but still very easy, a little musty and a little winey. Seems to be a national thing; Moo Brew’s ‘Dark Ale’ was also a Brown. Not a lot of Aussie Porter… maybe it’s just usually too fucking hot. I should’ve said MOO BREW ‘DARK ALE’. I’m not good at making new habits.2 This is definitely growing on me. The head is particularly impressive — big + smooth + resurrectable. (There was an almost-worrying amount of sediment in the bottle; that’ll help.)

1: This might be (or might be beginning to be) an Australian Thing; Moo Brew do it too with their ‘Dark Ale’. Maybe it’s just almost always Too Damn Hot for anything blacker and heavier — though of course, the delectable Coopers ‘Best Extra Stout’ is an obvious counter-example.

2: Perhaps I should explain why I chastise myself for not writing in capitals (here, as once before). They’re kind of like little visual hyperlinks, so that I can more-readily see what entries talk about other entries, basically. Things got quite hard to navigate with 300+ entries in Diary I — though I was still capable of occasional Rain Man-esque feats of spookiness like turning instantly to the page that contained the more-than-a-year-ago diary entry for Stone & Wood’s (delicious) ‘Draught Ale’ when Brad from the brewery saw my book and asked if his beer was in there…

Cucapá ‘Obscura’

Cucapa 'Obscura'
Cucapa 'Obscura'

The last of my trio of Cucapá beers, and certainly the pick of the bunch. Which is a little surprising, since you might fairly assume that a Mexican brewer would do the Light & Refreshing better than they do the Bigger & Sippier, given climate and whatnot. (The nerds on Ratebeer.com speak even more highly of their Imperial Stout and Barleywine, further compounding that weirdness, but neither of those were available for me to try.)

The bigger-still body does the best at hiding the niggling metallic note, though you can still feel it in there without trying very hard. The dark, mahogany-esque colour rightly hints at the sticky maltiness that is present in the nose and in your face. Both this, and the previous Pale Ale, are strange, in the fullness-of-body department; they taste ‘bigger’ than the Golden Ale, sure, but still manage to have some sips, or even some parts of individual sips, feel aggravatingly ’empty’.

The three beers are certainly acres better than the usual bog-standard Mexican lager. There is an unavoidable element of damning with faint praise inherent in that summary, but there’s no real reason to avoid it; these are better than their peers, but still not great.

Cupaca 'Obscura' Brown Ale
Diary II entry #10, Cupaca 'Obscura' Brown Ale

Verbatim: Cucapa ‘Obscura’ Brown Ale 18/9/10 4.8% 355ml also $4 from Reg. Very appealing mahogany-brown, despite the ‘Cerveza Negra’ on the label. Nose is sticky malthness, and there’s a decent amount on the palate, despite the now-familiar thinness and metal. (Though this hides that metal the best so far.) Quite probably the pick of the bunch, but they still don’t manage to totally rehabilitate Mexican beer in my mind — despite all being acres better than others. (Faint Praise Problem.)

Yeastie Boys ‘Her Majesty 2010’

Yeastie Boys 'Her Majesty 2010'
Yeastie Boys 'Her Majesty 2010'

And so begins Diary II. I’m kinda surprised I lasted a week since the birthday-closing of Diary I. But this was a hell of a way to kick things off; with a big, mad, not-concerned-with-style kinda thing.

The Yeastie Boys are no one-trick ponies; they can make crazy hoppy pale ales, delicious easy milds, and things like this that escape classification and just are what they are. Somewhat reminiscent of Emerson’s too-scarce ‘Taieri George’, this is a dark, smooth beer with oodles of chocolate and spice flavours, which is almost worryingly drinkable for its rather-high strength.

They make a ‘His Majesty’, as well, but this one is dedicated to their wives (and the largely-unsung women of the craft-brewing world in general) and apparently made to their tastes — which also makes this another useful thing to help dynamite silly notions of what is or isn’t a “girly beer”.

Yeastie Boys 'Her Majesty 2010'
Diary II entry #1, Yeastie Boys 'Her Majesty 2010'

Verbatim: Yeastie Boys ‘Her Majesty 2010’ 6/9/10 on tap @MH 7.5%. Welcome to the new book! An anniversary-ish beer seemed appropriate, and so did one that doesn’t respect style guidelines. “Belgian Imperial Porter” or Brown is people’s best bet. But why bother? It is what it is, and it’s good. Big, dark + spicy. Hides its booze worryingly well. Very wintery, almost Eastery with all those spices. Brewed for their wive’s tastes, apparently. Another counter-example to usual silly notions of what might be a “girly beer”, then.

My entry for the People’s Blog

The weekly blog on the Malthouse’s website has a semi-regular feature called ‘The People’s Blog’, where regulars and hangers-on and (occasionally) staff are invited to / dragooned into writing a little blab about their “two favourite Malthouse beers”. I was one of the “volunteers” for the second edition of that, and so this probably rates as my earliest, most-official piece of Rambling About Beer:

It’s chronically unfair to ask me for my “two favourite” Malthouse beers since I’m a fairly fickle and promiscuous drinker with tastes that vary pretty wildly depending on the weather, the plan for the evening (or morning…), what my previous beer was and general whims.  But okay. Let’s play along and pick two enduring favourites, at least.

Emerson’s Bookbinder (Dunedin, 3.7%). Absurdly flavourful for its moderate weight, Booky serves brilliantly as an after-work restorative (and actual book-binding is damn hard work, I can assure you) or as a sessionable fuel for long hours of talking nonsense with friends and generally laughing asses off – which won’t leave you too blurry in the small hours, or too hungover the day after.  It’s a reminder that, if you’re clever enough, you don’t have to climb to boozy heights to make a tasty beer, and that often there’s merit to be had for finding that perfect balance between your malts and your hops.  Both factors run nicely contrary to some frequently-silly fashions, and are worth celebrating.  So raise a glass.  Then another.

Cooper’s Sparkling Ale (Adelaide, 5.8%).  My first good Australian beer, upon which I luckily stumbled while beer-shopping for an Australia Day while off at university in a forty-degree Canberra summer. Hardly “sessionable” at 5.8% (not that that stopped me…) but a truly gorgeous golden ale with a wonderfully easy, fruity, lively and lingering taste that can be a great way to ease lagerheads into other styles, or to bring those who don’t consider themselves “beer drinkers” (maybe because lagerheads just offer them lager…) into the fold.

With its optional ritual of rolling the bottle to kick up the sediment, it’s also a great introduction to the joys of natural, unfiltered, bottle-conditioned (and so, arguably, “real”) beer.  It’s effortlessly delicious.

Continue reading My entry for the People’s Blog

Yeastie Boys ‘Kid Chocolate’

Yeastie Boys 'Kid Chocolate'
Diary entry #84, Yeastie Boys 'Kid Chocolate'

After the Silage Debacle, this was an incredibly-welcome change. The third Yeastie Boys release was a charmingly un-fashionable mild — great big hop-fueled high-booze things were very much in fashion, so the Yeasties staked their claim to being Plural-Tricked Ponies very early on.

It is weird that we got to the point where mildness could be a vaguely revolutionary thing, but this stuff was too enjoyable and mellow and good for any sort of complaint about the state of craft brewing in general to bubble very far up the brainstem. That’s what these things do, when they’re done well; they shut you up. Or at least, they shut up anything overly-animated and just let you sit and quietly talk nonsense with your friends. Like you should do more often, whoever you are.

Verbatim: Yeastie Boys ‘Kid Chocolate’ Mild 25/3/09 staffie at Malty $8/pint 3.6% The third YB, and a mostly forgotten style. Sessionable brown ale. Lovely chestnut colour, almost no hop presennce, as per style. Nice smooth malt-driven quaffer. Slightest nudge of choc. Another oddly-named good thing.

Emerson’s ‘Taieri George’

Emerson's 'Taieri George'
Emerson's 'Taieri George'

One of Emersons’ seasonal releases, this one comes out each year in honour of Mister Emerson Senior’s birthday. He’d be the George in the name, it also being a punny nod to the fact he was involved with the Taieri Gorge railway. It’s a great big yummy dark ale, significantly spicy (they admit to nutmeg and cinnamon, but won’t be drawn on the secret third), and a good bit boozy (at 6.8%) — absolutely perfect for just when the days are turning colder.

Afterthoughts, February 2011: The usual tasting note for this stuff is that it’s ‘liquid hot cross buns’, and it certainly arrives with roughly Easterish timing. But I really despise hot cross buns — not just for, you know, theological reasons — and I love this to bits. So your mileage may vary. Certainly don’t let the comparison put you off, if it does.

Emerson's 'Taieri George'
Diary entry #81, Emerson's 'Taieri George'

I compared the delicious ‘Her Majesty’ by Yeastie Boys to this, and the pairing also shows you just what work yeast and malt can do if you cleverly pick your pairing and regularly crack the whip; the Yeastie Boys brew didn’t have any actual spices in it but still gets itself an awesomely-multi-faceted shape like this has.

I also had this beer with (and went to Watchmen with) my friend George. I have literally no idea how that coincidental alignment of beer names and people names went un-noted. I’m usually all over that stuff, to a relatively-pathological degree.

Verbatim: Emerson’s Taieri George 10/3/09 $12 @ work 6.8% 500ml Released a few days ago, and had before heading off to Watchmen. It’s got a cute story, and it’s always gorgeous. Big and dark with ruby highlights, super smooth and silky, spicy and warming. Loveliness.

Timothy Taylor’s ‘Landlord’

Timothy Taylor's 'Landlord'
Timothy Taylor's 'Landlord'

The timing of this is somewhat ironic, since I’m house-hunting. But I’d been meaning to have one for ages — and having beers for ‘punny’ reasons has always been a habit of mine. It’s a ‘Strong Pale Ale’, but they mean in terms of flavour, not booze. It’s golden, with a very herby, hoppy, grassy nose. Zesty and lively in the body, with a nice long finish, and a good solid presence in the taste, as opposed to the subtler Pedigree I had before it, but it’s still hugely drinkable.

The fraction that made it into the photo is ambiguous, but I’m fairly sure that’s Nation by Terry Pratchett that I was reading. You should, too; it’s very good.

Timothy Taylor's 'Landlord'
Diary entry #79, Timothy Taylor's 'Landlord'

Afterthoughts, February 2011: We couldn’t get this at work for ages; no one was importing it any more. It was probably the most asked-after of beers in that category for months. And then, recently, we got a dozen dozen. Which was fun for me to stack away, as it always is. We’re motoring through them.

Verbatim: Timothy Taylor’s Landlord 9/2/09 500ml 4.1% $12 @ Malthouse.  Strong pale ale. Flavourful, not booze. Golden, with a herby, hoppy, grassy nose. Zesty + lively in the body, with a nice long finish. Good solid presence in the taste, as opp. the subtle Pedigree, but still hugely drinkable.

Marston’s ‘Pedigree’

Marston's 'Pedigree'
Marston's 'Pedigree'

A classic English ale, with a nice old-school bent in that they still use a peculiar system of oak casks all piped-together for the brewing, which does give it definite woody undertones, especially late. It’s a nice light amber, starts smooth, and is generally easy-going, understated, but rewarding. Lots of subtle little flavours drifting up as you go, making for an enjoyably complex sipper. It’s also got the solid minerally-ness that comes from the Burton water, and became a characteristic of the stronger, hoppier India Pale Ales, when they were developed.

Afterthoughts, February 2011: In another instance for the Strange Timing files, I’m just getting back on to the archival-uploads task bang on two years after I first had this. I still have fond memories of this beer, and have had a couple in the intervening time. So sedate, and worth spending time with.

Marston's 'Pedigree'
Diary entry #78, Marston's 'Pedigree'

I love that the label says “Official Beer of England”, too. A wonderfully over-reaching marketing effort, since they mean “of the English Cricket Team”.

Verbatim: Marston’s Pedigree. 9/2/09. 500ml 4.5% $11 @ Malthouse. Classic English ale, brewed in a weird old oak cask system, and it shows. Very woody undertones, especially late. It’s a nice light amber, and has a smooth start. Easy-going, understated but rewarding. With the Burton water mineral note.

BrewDog ‘The Physics’

BrewDog 'The Physics'
BrewDog 'The Physics'

A wonderful little amber ale with a very nice silky and enduring froth on top — and so perfectly amber that it’d make for a good colour chart entry, or something to point to if someone doesn’t know what the word means. It’s only very subtly hopped, leaving loads of room for sweet, fruity malty characters (some from wheat) to knock around. The balancing bitterness has an assertive first grab with a nice smooth follow-through.

The apparently-slightly-bonkers Scotsmen who make it assert that “there is no proper actual physics in this bottle”, but that’s — obviously — just bad metaphysics. I can forgive them that, though. The chronically-bored are hereby directed to the entry on ‘Supervenience’ in the Wikipedia, and then in the Stanford Online Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

BrewDog 'The Physics'
Diary entry #72, BrewDog 'The Physics'

Verbatim: Brew Dog ‘The Physics’. 13/1/09 $7 330ml 5% at home. Bloody marvellous amber ale. Lovely smooth head, perfectly amber in colour. Only subtley hopped, letting malty fruitiness drive. Curranty, with an assertive first grab, then a nice smooth follow-through.

Afterthoughts, November 2010: Oh yeah, Beer Nerd, regular-type Computer / Gadget Nerd, Comic Book Nerd — and also Philosophy Nerd. With a degree and everything. Seriously, though, supervenience is fascinating. Lovely to have that philosophy-headache moment next time you do something seemingly-mundane but physics-nightmarish as knocking on a door.

Emerson’s ‘Bookbinder’, again

Emerson's 'Bookbinder'
Emerson's 'Bookbinder'

Verbatim: Emerson’s ‘Bookbinder’. Again. The previously-promised photo in “proper” glassware. Actually, I cheated a bit and upgraded my after-work glass to the ever-so-slightly-bigger version than what I was strictly-speaking supposed to. All in pursuit of a wee bit more Bookbinder, so totally justified. The Booky-book — or Wookie-book, if you’re Amelia — is always worth another visit, and has long-since had a place on the All Time Favourites list.

Afterthoughts, November 2010: A year later, it was one of two beers I wrote about for the Malthouse blog, and so it was still happily on that Favourites List. And now, a year after that, it still is. We need some kind of Lifetime Achievement Award around here.