Banks’s (Marstons) Banks’s Bitter – English Bitter at 3.6% ABV

Banks’s (Marstons) Banks’s Bitter English Bitter at 3.6% ABV ($4.00 at Dominion Stavanger, 500ml, best before 31-Jul-2015)

Pours clear pale amber with a one finger of light beige head diminishing gradually to a thin skim, moderate lacing. (4/5) Nose is biscuity caramel malt, faint citrus, earthy hops. (5/10) Taste is moderate sweet, mild bitter. (5/10) Medium body tending to the watery, low carbonation, off-dry bitter finish. (3/5)

Pretty much a standard Marston’s bitter – think their EPA, except two shades darker in colour and flavour. The hops are a little more earthy than grassy, and the fruit is maybe a little more citrus than stone. Not a lot to really distinguish it beyond that, though – perhaps a marginally better drinker. (10/20)

5.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Marstons Marston’s EPA – English Pale Ale at 3.6% ABV

Marstons Marston’s EPA English Pale Ale at 3.6% ABV ($4.00 at Dominion Stavanger, 500ml, best before 31-Jul-2015)

Pours clear straw with a thin one finger of white head diminishing rapidly to a thin skim, no lacing. (3/5) Nose is biscuity pale malt, faint stone fruit, grassy hops. (5/10) Taste is moderate sweet, mild bitter. (5/10) Light body, low carbonation, off-dry building bitter finish. (3/5)

Well, if that’s the “Official beer of England”, you have my deepest sympathy. I guess it’s not bad, as such, but it’s little more than fizzy yellow water. Sessionable, sure, but so’s tap water. Fine as a thirst quencher, I guess, or if you’re the DD.(10/20)

5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales Calabaza Blanca – Witbier at 4.8% ABV

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales Calabaza Blanca Witbier at 4.8% ABV (Via trade, 750ml, bottle date 21-Jan-2014)

Pours hazy pale straw with an explosive three fingers of rocky white head great retention, moderate lacing (4/5) Nose is Belgian funk, citrus peel, coriander, wheat, green apple. (9/10) Taste is moderate sweet, moderately strong tart. (9/10) Light body, prickly carbonation, dry tart finish. (4/5)

When I say “explosive” head, I mean it. Straight out of the cellar, no agitation at all, gently opened and immediately overflowed. Have a bucket ready. Sustained carbonation, tartness, and apple tones in the finish invite obvious cider comparisons. Unlike any witbier I’ve ever had: only the mildest of wheat flavour fades in comparison to the barnyard funk and green apple tartness. After struggling for a bit for comparisons, I’ll amend my comment: unlike pretty much any other beer I’ve ever had – though the De Ranke XX Bitter or Cuvée de Ranke might be close. If anything, it’s more like a light, sour saison. I’d like to vertical this new and following a year’s cellaring, to see how much of the funk and carbonation is due to ageing, and what it’s like new. Really good. (18/20)

9/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams) Samuel Adams Fat Jack – Spice/Herb/Vegetable at 8.5% ABV

Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams) Samuel Adams Fat Jack Spice/Herb/Vegetable at 8.5% ABV ($5.90 at NLC Kelsey Drive, 650ml, no bottle date or best before)

Pours deep amber with one fat finger of light beige head diminishing gradually to a thin cap, moderate lacing (4/5) Nose is nutmeg, pumpkin, toffee, maybe some dark fruit, just a hint of smoke. (7/10) Taste is moderately strong sweet, moderately strong bitter. (7/10) Full body, moderate to low carbonation, somewhat syrupy, mild bitter finish. (4/5)

A good way to do pumpkin – a winter warmer style that’s almost barleywine in nature. It’s quite sweet, and I’m not exactly sure why that doesn’t play out as cloying – I guess it’s the heavy spices, lots of pumpkin, and a distinct alcohol warming, built on a thick, syrupy caramel. Subtle? Nope. Does it work? Yep. In fact, given the high ABV, utter absence of hop character, and the explicit suggestion on the bottle, I think I might pick up one or two more for long-term cellaring. (14/20)

7.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Lagunitas Brewing Company Lagunitas Imperial Red Ale – American Amber / Red Ale at 7.8% ABV

Lagunitas Brewing Company Lagunitas Imperial Red Ale American Amber / Red Ale at 7.8% ABV ($8.90 at Star Liquor & Wine, 650ml, no bottle date or best before)

Pours deep amber with a red tinge, one fat finger off white head diminishing gradually to a thin cap, moderate to heavy lacing (4/5) Nose is pine resin and citrus, caramel malt. (7/10) Taste is moderate sweet, moderately strong bitter. (8/10) Medium body, moderate carbonation, mild bitter finish. (4/5)

Excellent amber ale – light enough to be session able, with a very well-integrated ABV that’s never intrusive, yet retaining enough body and hop presence to be interesting. A somewhat hop-forward interpretation of a traditionally malt-dominated style – I like it. (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Ringwood Brewery (Marstons) Ringwood Fortyniner – English Pale Ale at 4.9% ABV

Ringwood Brewery (Marstons) Ringwood Fortyniner English Pale Ale at 4.9% ABV ($4.00 at Dominion Stavanger, 500ml, best before 31-Jul-2015)

Pours clear pale amber with a fat finger of light tan head diminishing rapidly to a thin skim, moderate lacing. (3/5) Nose is biscuity pale and caramel malt, very faint apples and grassy hops. (5/10) Taste starts mild malty sweet, gives way to moderately strong bitter. (6/10) Medium to full body, prickly to moderate carbonation, lingering bitter astringent finish. (4/5)

Not quite the bland Marston brew I feared it would be, to be frank. Although it initially smells like a plain old typical ESB or EPA, the taste is a little surprising: a fairly well-balanced mild malty sweetness gives way fairly quickly to a little more enthusiastic bitter than I expected. The finish is bitter and astringent, with green apple tone making it a little puckering. All in all, not unpleasant, and I’d have another. (12/20)

6/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Boxing Rock Brewing Company Unobtanium Intrepid Amber Ale – American Amber Ale at 5.0% ABV

Boxing Rock Brewing Company Unobtanium Intrepid Amber Ale American Amber Ale at 5.0% ABV ($4.82 at Bishop’s Cellar, 650ml, bottle date 23-Oct-2014)

Pours clear deep amber with a fat finger of light tan head diminishing gradually to a thin cap, moderate lacing. (4/5) Nose is pine and citrus hops, caramel malt, grapes, plums and prunes. (7/10) Taste is moderate sweet, moderate bitter. (7/10) Full body, moderate carbonation, lingering bitter finish. (3/5)

An interesting amber ale – lots of starts-with-C dry hopping in the nose, smooth malt on the tongue. The addition of Nelson Sauvin hops adds an interesting dimension to the nose, imparting fruity, grape like tones. It’s not an unreserved success, but it is interesting, and that counts for a lot. (14/20)

7/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Whiffen Brewing Company / Uncle Leo’s Brewery Vohs Weizenbier – Hefeweizen at 5.0% ABV

Whiffen Brewing Company / Uncle Leo’s Brewery Vohs Weizenbier Hefeweizen at 5.0% ABV ($4.13 at Bishop’s Cellar, 650ml, bottle date 7-Sep-2014)

Pours clear pale gold with one finger of loose white head diminishing rapidly to a thin skim, no lacing. (3/5) Nose is wheat, banana and clove, light biscuity malt. (7/10) Taste is moderate sweet, mild bitter, light peppery spice. (7/10) Light to medium body, prickly to moderate carbonation, slightly creamy but a dry finish. (3/5)

A solid, if unremarkable, hefeweizen. Moderately good to decent example, nice for a sunny day and a BBQ. For the price, though? Stellar. May well be the best bang for your buck I’ve ever reviewed. You’d be hard-pressed to find this much beer of that quality for that price anywhere else. Other than, y’know, in Belgium… (14/20)

7/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Le Trou du Diable MacTavish In Memoriam – American Pale Ale at 5% ABV

Le Trou du Diable MacTavish In Memoriam American Pale Ale at 5% ABV ($7.520 at Bishop’s Cellar, 600ml, bottle date 12-May-2014)

Pours clear pale gold with three fingers of rocky white head diminishing gradually to a thick cap, moderately heavy lacing. (4/5) Nose is pine resin, pithy citrus, light biscuity caramel malt. (7/10) Taste is mild sweet, moderate bitter. (7/10) Light to medium body, moderate carbonation, lingering bitter finish. (3/5)

Very drinkable APA. Might be a little on the old side, and perhaps it’d be brighter when newer, but still a decent enough brew. Perhaps a little expensive – ultimately it falls a little short of greatness, but the price tag doesn’t reflect that. There are better examples out there for less money. (14/20)

7/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Phillips Brewing Company Hoperation Tripel Cross – Belgian IPA at 7.3% ABV

Phillips Brewing Company Hoperation Tripel Cross Belgian IPA at 7.3% ABV ($6.40 at Solo Liquor Copperfield, 650ml, no bottle date or best before)

Pours clear pale gold with a fat two fingers of loose white head diminishing gradually to a thick cap, moderately heavy lacing. (4/5) Nose is grassy and floral hops, Belgian funk, indistinct fruit and spices. (8/10) Taste is moderate sweet, strong bitter, mild funk. (9/10) Light body, moderate carbonation, lingering funky bitter finish. (4/5)

This is probably on par with the best Phillips brews I’ve had so far. Decent balance of pungent hops and Belgian brett-like funk, with light malt supporting. Not as bright as Bottle Rocket, but the Belgian funk adds an interesting character singling this out from the rest of the Phillips stable. (17/20)

8.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com