Friday, 26 December 2014

Ballast Point: Victory at Sea (Coffee and Vanilla Porter)

Bought from Cellarbrations at Carlisle (Perth)

Yet another Victory for San Diego's best
Ballast Point's Victory at Sea coffee and vanilla porter is yet another prime example as to how this SoCal brewing stalwart has risen to the top of fierce regional competition. While its rivals focus on daringly hop forward IPAs, Ballast Point have instead showed the world that the representation of Californian beers does not need to begin and end with huge hop flavour profiles. Not only is the Californian beer flag flying high here but also SoCal coffee from Caffe Calabria, who collaborated with Ballast Point in creating this exceptional porter.

Victory at Sea pours a dense black with a tanned, at first firm head that dissipates to fine lacing. On the nose, this coffee and vanilla-infused imperial porter bounds forth with promising aromas of intensely sweet coffee, vanilla extract and dried dark fruits and berries. Indeed, there is a sharp quality to Victory's aroma.

The addition of fresh, cold brewed coffee from Caffe Calabria makes its presence known right up front. Riding a sweet malt backbone is a torrent of lusciously dry coffee and the sort of roasty and earthy character that suggests the telling of stories by the campfire (preferably while visiting the mountains outside San Diego - which I hope to do one day). Vanilla undertones do their level best to shine in however are ultimately overwhelmed; perhaps this is why the next victory at Sea incarnation sees its omission. The well rounded finish is characterised by roasty coffee and hop bitterness. Victory at Sea's mouthfeel is perfectly complementary to the overlying flavours in that it is relatively smooth once the medium carbonation has settled upon the tongue.

Victory at Sea is among the most intense porters I have ever enjoyed. It is an absolute must for anyone searching for something that better represents the truly broad scope of Californian brewing.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Ballast Point: Sculpin (IPA)

Bought from The International Beer Shop, Leederville (Perth)

The supurb beer named after the super-strange fish.

Mother nature must have got heavy on the turps when she drew up the blueprint for the sculpin; a truly strange looking and at times (depending on the genera) downright ugly fish. When man wants to get on the turps, he can turn to Sculpin, a beer brewed by SoCal legends Ballast Point that is perhaps a lot more attractive than its namesake.

According to the brewers themselves, hops were added over five stages during the brewing process. Moreover, the idea behind Sculpin was to see Ballast Point relive the spirit of its home brewing roots. The end result is a beer that showcases what is great about the SoCal scene.

Sculpin pours a dense ochre colour with a decidedly unfiltered look to it (which is not at all a bad thing). Its head is hued to the same colour of the beer and quickly dissipates to light lacing.
Tart, tangy and zesty aromatics get things going right from the off. There is even a hint of oceanic sea breeze, but one should not be surprised given that this is a SoCal beer.

Rollicking resinous hop bitterness bounds forth immediately on entry, leaving no doubt in my mind that this is one bottle in amongst a fresh batch. As the beer warms, the intense bitter resin backs off somewhat, leaving in its wake bountiful tropical fruit flavours. Lemon zest, apricot, mango and grapefruit dominate. There are even surprising suggestions of leafy greens such as kale, herbaceous notes and plenty of brininess on the finish. Hop bitterness in all its resinous glory returns to round out proceedings.

Sculpin's mouthfeel reflects the unfiltered appearance of the beer in that is not at all coarse while maintaining a home brew-like yeasty character, while its carbonation is quite low for its style.

Indeed, the sculpin fish is as dangerous as it is ugly. Much like the poisonous spikes on the fish's fins, there is a certain sting to this beer. Sculpin is yet another terrifically complex and impactful SoCal IPA well worthy of sampling time and time again.

Special thanks to the lads at The International Beer Shop who selflessly let me have the very last available bottle instead of keeping it for themselves!

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Golden Road: Heal the Bay IPA

Purchased from The International Beer Shop, Leederville (Perth, Western Australia)

A brilliant beer that encapsulates the California spirit.

Los Angeles' Golden Road epitomise bright, summery beers in both image and flavour. Heal the Bay IPA is an astonishing beer that encapsulates and embodies the Californian spirit and coastal living like no other has conjured..

The inspiration behind Heal the Bay IPA was found in partnering with LA's foremost ocean and beach- environmental conservation group of the same name, hence this is a very clean beer in every sense.

Heal the Bay IPA pours a colour unique to IPAs as it lays somewhere between lager and pale ale hues. On the nose the aroma is simply mind blowing. Oceanic brine collides head first with an easterly breeze bringing in earthy, slightly volcanic notes. Fresh tropical fruit is also gloriously abundant.

Upon entry, the resin factor is huge in its mouth puckering effect. As the recipe includes Nelson Sauvin, Citra and Centennial the hop character is as deep as it is complex. Beneath a deep sense of earthiness, all manner of tropical fruits shine through; especially notes of pineapple and passionfruit. A hint of paw paw precedes a torrent of walloping grapefruit-forward hop bitterness.

Heal the Bay IPA's aromatics and flavours are not the only elements that showcase Golden Road's superb brewing prowess; the mouthfeel is also rather noteworthy. The way in which the beer rolls over the tongue like the more gentler waves one might experience along the Los Angeles coastline with carbonation and smoothness that somehow strikes both lager and double IPA qualities.

Much like Wolf Among the Weeds, Heal the Bay IPA is unique, phenomenally complex and full of surprises. With a limited run hitting Australian shores, there is no time like the present to get going along the Golden Road.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Twisted Manzanita: Iron Mountain IPA

Twisted Manzanita: Iron Mountain IPA

SoCal beers are becoming something of an obsession with me. San Diego's Twisted Manzanita is just one brewery among many in the region pumping out weapons-grade hop bombs, including this gem of a beer.

The Twisted Manzanita IPA pours a deep ocre; not pale by any means. The colour tells no lies of the bold tropical fruit and ramped up hop impact that eventually follow. Its head dissipates to virtually nothing from the can however this was a half-pour (the other half being shared with a friend). Mouthfeel is smooth with medium carbonation.

The aroma is all spring florals, pine and tropical fruit. What follows is a dogfight between bold pine resin and tropical fruit. Strangely with all this fruitiness Twisted Manzanita's Iron Mountain IPA is in no way sugary sweet; a dryish savoury malt backbone rumbles beneath. There is even a hint of salted, burnt caramel as well (indicative of the caramel malts included in the brew).

Finishing off this delightfully confusing experience is a burst of rollicking, astringent, piny and resinous hop bitterness.

I am suitably impressed by this truly unique IPA.