Yeastie Boys: The Spoonbender Series

spoonbenderseries

I know I am a bit late to the party with these brews. It was kind of one of those things that has been on the back burner and then there was a new release I had to drink, and then another… You know the feeling I’m sure. The Spoonbender series is basically a collaboration series between the Yeastie Boys and other industries, other crews and people that do not necessarily  think the way they do. What they are looking for is the strange. Something that may not have been thought of before because of the variance between the industry. With this series the Yeastie Boys have teamed up with South Australian winemakers Some Young Punks and have used their already fermented and aged botrytis Viognier and have created a candi- sugar to use in the brewing process.

What’s botrytis you say? Very simply put it’s a form of good ‘rot’ on grapes, sometimes known as ‘Noble Rot’. It shrivels and decays the fruit but at the same time greatly intensifies the sweetness of the fruit and adds some very interesting complexity. Noble Rot is found in wines like Sauternes from Bordeaux, Tokaji from Hungary and a lot of German Rieslings and are known for their sweetness, stickiness and a certain ‘honey’ quality. Candi- sugar may also be a familiar term to you as well; it is a brewing sugar used mostly in Belgium to brew styles such as Tripels and Dubbel. It boosts alcohol content without adding too much body, giving that warming, sticky feeling so well known with those richer belgian styles. So with this in mind you can already sort of form a picture of how this will translate to the beer, particularly with the styles they have chosen to brew: Pale Ale, Imperial Porter and a Tripel. So let’s kick off the series and see how it translates ourselves.

slypersuader

The Sly Persuader

Style: Pale Ale /  ABV: 6% / IBU: 20

Pour:

Pours a pale orange lemon with minimal stark white head and fine lacing.

On The Nose:

Getting plenty of stewed apricot on the nose, fleshy orange and candied orange pith, lime zest, fresh peach and smatterings of tropical fruits: think mango, honey dew melon and lychees. Picking up faint floral notes of honeysuckle, chamomile and orange blossom with cereal/ hay dryness.

Palate:

Extremely well balanced pale ale here. Packed full of chewy, stewy apricot, nectarine and peach with plenty of citrus acidity: orange blossom, preserved lemon and lime juice. A slight sticky sweetness in the mouthfeel with a refreshing dry finish of honeysuckle, clove and candied ginger.

Final Thoughts:

A really well structured, balanced pale ale. I expected the candi- sugar to shine through a bit more on the palate but it was definitely there. I guess you don’t want to make a pale ale cloying, that kinda defeats the purpose…  Plenty of sweetness shining through with slight sticky sweetness in the mouthfeel with some dried stewed fruit characters and a dry, refreshing finish. A very interesting little pale ale.

lastdictator

The Last Dictator

Style: Imperial Porter / ABV: 10% / IBU: 72

Pour:

Pours a deep, dark brown, almost black, with light brown tinges on the edges and minimal light tan brown head.

On The Nose:

Getting a sticky vinous grape must quality on the nose with  boozy Christmas cake, rum and raisin, burnt toffee, espresso, vanilla bean and sweet, rich milk chocolate. Plenty of roasted nuts too finishing in sticky red fruits: think cranberries, currants and stewed plums.

Palate:

First hit on the palate is all about rich, roasted malts, espresso bitters and burnt toffee. This softens out to rich chocolate fudge, chewy caramel, vanilla bean and boozy rum and raisin with that sticky grape must sweetness returning again. Getting lots of sweet spice in the mix too: clove, nutmeg and cinnamon sticks with light star anise/ liquorice notes. Mouthfeel is rich, luscious and sticky, coating the entire palate with a hint in honeyed alcohol, just warming the mouth.

Final Thoughts:

This is an absolutely cracking imperial Porter. I feel the botrytis does actually bring something to this brew with that grape must quality, and it appears in every aspect. The nose certainly has a musky, sticky grape muscatel quality to it, the palate also brings a sticky vinous quality to the table too with honey beeswax characters. The mouthfeel is an absolute knockout for me; sticky, unctuous and all kinds of deliciousness. The label puts it perfectly, the botrytis is really ‘infused’ in this brew and plays to the strengths of the style. This brew in my opinion really hits the brief the Yeastie Boys set out to accomplish. Really well done.

sunbeforedarkness

The Sun Before The Darkness

Style: Tripel / ABV: 10% / IBU: 50

Pour:

Pours a hazy burnt orange with minimal off white foam.

On The Nose:

Sweet as sweet can be on the nose with heaps of candied fruit sweetness straight up front. Lots of candied orange zest, sweet orange flesh, dried apricot, notes of bubblegum, citrus blossom, juicy ripe peaches and preserved mango. Notes of cinnamon, sugary caramel and vanilla in the finish.

Palate:

Palate is sweet, spicy and fantastically warm, spreading to all the extremities. Getting those sugary candy fruits here too: stewy orange, candied citrus pith, dried apricot, mango and a grapefruit bitterness with sticky caramel, honey notes and grape must. Sweetness gives way to warm, boozy spices and notes of cedar. Mouthfeel is silky, warming, rich and completely coating. Brilliant complexity.

Final Thoughts:

This one seriously hit the spot and was a clever choice to build around botrytis Viognier. Plenty of sticky sweetness with classic botrytis characteristics: almost like a good olorosso or other sticky sherry it is honey sweet and sticky with layers of complexity. I would have to say, this is one of the best Tripels I’ve ever tasted. Completely and utterly brilliant.

Final Thoughts On The Series:

I have to say, it is seriously commendable for thinking outside the box with this project. It would have been so easy to go for something obvious like barrel ageing but the idea of taking botrytis Viognier, reducing it to candi- sugar and brewing with that was some ingenious thinking. The idea of designing the beer around the botrytis was also very clever as they have been able to ingrate it into the various styles, and it worked brilliantly for the most part. I don’t think it worked quite as well for the Pale Ale as it should have; there are aspects but it didn’t quite hit the brief to me. The Tripel and Imperial Porter on the other hand were absolutely outstanding with the botrytis shining brilliantly and complementing the styles perfectly. Seriously looking forward to the next series if it’s this kind of thinking and ingenuity, this kind of thinking is what makes industries move forward and think outside the boundary of their own profession. Here’s hoping this sort of experimentation continues…

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Garage Project: Hop Trail #1

hoptrial1

I’m always interested to try single hop brews. As a guy who is fairly amateur when it comes to hops (I have a fairly good idea of some them and their characteristics) I always find it fun to get hold of them and see what they have to offer and this particular one was too good to pass up. Now comes this rather brilliant blend of science and brewing from Plant and Food Research and New Zealand hops and Garage Project. The two have gotten together to trial new, unreleased hop cultivars. Let us see what this can contains: in the name of science!

Style: IPA

ABV: 7%

IBU: 55

Got it from: Low Buy, Lilydale.

Pour:

Pours a light straw/ lemon colour with bubbly, fluffy head.

On The Nose:

The nose is bright, fruity and tantalisingly spicy. Notes of lemongrass, white pepper and floral chamomile with fresh pineapple, peach, juicy watermelon and spritzy sherbet characters.

Palate:

That prominent spicy lemongrass note jumps out first with tart grapefruit, lime and pineapple with that watermelon note floating around in the background adding to the mouthfeel. Getting some fresh peach and melon too finishing in a brilliant , lingering bitterness of mint, eucalyptus and fresh pine needles.

Final Thoughts:

When i first heard about this I knew this new cultivar was going in to safe hands. Garage Project is one of the premier brewers of New Zealand and wizards of hop use so I knew it was going to be good. And it was fascinatingly good. This hop I found to be all about the bitters. Seriously bitter bitters, and I think would be a very worthy addition to any brewers hop itinerary. It is an ideal bittering hop with some interesting fruit characters to bring to the game. I really hope this hop makes the cut! Would love to see it in a brew again…

Garage Project Venusian Pale Ale (NZ)

garageprojectVPA

It’s always exciting and fascinating when The Garage Project releases new stuff, you never really know what their next “brewing arc” will be. But you are assured three things: 1) Impressive and beautiful label art 2) A brilliant and thought out story to the brews and 3) The most delicious, offbeat and interesting beer you may ever have… Their new “arc” is all about slipping the surly bonds of earth and mining Venus. Who saw that coming?? Anyway, let us sample this pale ale: Venusian Pale Ale.

Style: Pale Ale

ABV: 7.3%

IBU: N/A

Pour:

Pours a classic pale ale colour of bright orange with shades of yellow and fine white head.

On The Nose:

The nose is a juicy, floral fruit bomb to the nostrils. Getting tonnes of fresh apricot, zesty grapefruit pith, baked lime cheesecake and a tinge of spicy lemon grass. Some fantastic sticky raspberry jelly notes, honeysuckle, black currant and passionfruit reduction. Getting some sweet malt, dry cereal and sweet honey.

Palate:

A fantastic balance of fruit sweetness with juicy, mouth watering apricot, black berries, fresh raspberries, melon, fresh orange, candied lime zest and passionfruit. Cracking citrus rind bitterness and dryness of fresh lime zest and grapefruit finishing in a very tasty malt backbone: biscuit, cereal and light cedar notes. The mouthfeel just hits everywhere on the palate; full and action packed. Hits it out of the park. Getting plenty of sweet spices too: nutmeg, juniper, clove and star anise.

Final Thoughts:

When The Garage Project puts out a pale ale, you better believe it aint gonna be a simple, straight pale ale… This is a pale ale on freakin steroids! I cannot believe this thing is 7.3% either, it is just fantastically accentuated in every way and everything you could ever want in a pale ale. The addition of lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf and grapefruit peel is a stroke of genius and magnifies this brew out of this world. Garage Project, can you do no wrong?

8 Wired 2012 Chardonnay Barrel Aged Saison (NZ)

8wiredchardsaison

I’m a bit of a nut for barrel ageing at the moment. With most of my working experience being in wineries, I’ve had my fair share of vino and love the effect barrels have on finished products. Adding complexity, oak, toastiness and a great depth of flavour that accentuates the style: whether it be pinot, shiraz or, in this case, chardonnay. Where the oak comes from also plays a massive role, predominantly either being American or French, each give their own unique flavour. French tends to lend itself to more subtlety: spice and silky textures, while American tends toward bolder, oakier toast notes like coconut with creamy mouthfeel. Lets see how this barrel ageing from 8 Wired has turned out!

Style: Saison

ABV: 7.0%

IBU: N/A

Pour:

Pours a golden orange with what started as fluffy white head but quickly dissipated.

On The Nose:

Lots of stewed apricot, peach, green apple, hints of pineapple and lots of toast, cedar, vanilla and tonnes of oak all thanks to the barrel ageing. Also getting some fresh grapefruit, sweet spices and leathery notes, flint, gun smoke  and lees.

Palate:

Packed with apricot and stewed peach with loads of candied grapefruit pith, lime juice and Granny Smith apple, like you’ve just taken a big bite out of one. Absolutely loving the dryness  in this: puckering citrus rind, leather, cereal and cedar. Getting lots of earthiness too with stoney flinty notes. The barrel ageing is on full display here with lots of oak, toast, cedar and buttery mouthfeel. Getting sweet spices like clove, cinnamon and nutmeg too.

Final Thoughts:

8 Wired have crammed some serious complexity into this brew with the barrel ageing shining incredibly. Drinking this, the similarities of chardonnay and saison is blindingly apparent. Reminiscent of big, oaky chardonnays I’m guessing 8 Wired have used American oak here. Getting juicy citrus, granny smith apple, cereal and leather with flinty steel notes, like licking a whetstone. Classic chardonnay notes. This was a fascinating experiment and one that was fascinating to drink. Really well made and balanced, this is a perfect melding of wine making and beer brewing. Brilliant.