(Collapse of) Stout Party

A night at home alone, so time to try some of the bottles in the cupboard. Two stouts and a porter, from weakest to strongest. Yes, I know, a Sydney summer night is not the time to be drinking strong dark beers, but my internal season-adjuster-thingy hasn’t flipped over yet. Two summers in a row (if you can call what I experienced in London between June and August “summer”) have confused me no end.

The first contender tonight is Hatlifter Stout, from the Grand Ridge Brewing Company of Gippsland, Victoria. Grand Ridge definitely err towards the boutique end of things, with an interesting range which includes a very nice Scotch Ale (not on their website now) which I tried a while ago, a Belgian Blonde, and a premixed Black and Tan for those too lazy (or tight) to mix their own.

Hatlifter Stout

Hatlifter Stout

The Hatlifter poured a dark ruby colour, with a yellowy head which dissipated quite quickly. There was a caramel smell with a definite whiff of alcohol, which as this is only 4.9% (1.3 standard drinks/bottle) was surprising. The first taste was vanilla, followed by maltiness, a bit of licorice and a definite coffee flavour in the aftertaste. A smooth taste and one that did not grow tiring as the glass emptied. Worth drinking at cellar temperature, I’d say. I’d definitely drink this again.

From a micro to a macro for the next bottle – Cascade Stout. Cascade is the oldest surviving brewery in Australia, originally founded in Tasmania in 1824, but since (I think) the late 1980s part of The Fosters Group (CUB). Despite now being part of the evil empire (and from the sound of it, they weren’t exactly innocents in the old days anyway) they make decent enough beers, which I’d take over a New any day.

none more black

Cascade Stout

To the bottle in question then. Cascade Stout is part of their “Craft Collection”, so I’d expect it to have something a bit extra in the taste. Advertising has misled me again. The main taste I got from this was a metallic, bitter one. There was a slight creaminess to it and it had quite an attractive roasted smell, but otherwise it was pretty dull and quite a bore to finish. As you can see from the picture it was the darkest of tonight’s brews, an opaque black with an attractive tan head. Quite strong, at 5.8% (1.5 standard drinks/bottle), so useful for getting drunk but not a lot else. Rather a disappointment.

And to finish it’s back to Murray’s Brewing Co for Murray’s Best Extra Porter. A birruva monster at 8% (2.1 standard drinks/bottle), Murray accepts that’s it’s only “vaguely” in the porter style, and throws the “imperial” * word around too. I was reminded of a Belgian Dubbel, but not a great example of that variety. It didn’t smell of a great deal, had a bittersweet taste and, again, I felt bored with it by the time my glass was empty. Head stuck around though.

Murray's Porter

Murray's Porter

And another thing. For the third time with Murray’s beers, part of the bottle has come away with the crown cap – that’s twice with Pale Ales and once with the Porter. Not good.

Another reason not to drink straight from the bottle

Another reason not to drink straight from the bottle

At least all the glass stayed in the cap...

At least all the glass stayed in the cap...

So, the clear winner of the night was Grand Ridge’s Hatlifter Stout. I shall be getting some more of those some time soon, probably from Dan Murphy’s (Willoughby Branch), my new source for vaguely interesting beers. Meanwhile, as the temperature hits 35 degrees celsius, I think I’ll leave Stout Party 2 (Cooper’s, Sheaf, Abbotsford…any other suggestions?) a few months.

*Originally used on some nice strong brews sent to the Russian royal court, “imperial” is now the word American microbrewers affix to their stupidly-strong stouts when they want to give their expensive tramp juice pretensions.

5 Responses to (Collapse of) Stout Party

  1. Moses says:

    Do you remember a beer called Reschs smooth black Ale? I was about 20 at the time it came out and enjoyed them, went down so so smooth.

    With regard to your Cascade Craft Beers, more recently I had a Cascade First Harvest, picked up a 4 pack on a brewery tour there at the end of 07 and was not impressed by the result. I’m not experienced in describing the flavours of beer, yet, but to me this had quite a stouty flavour yet a golden colour. Had a 4 pack and ended up giving 3 to mates so they could also ‘sample’ it – truth be told I had no intention of finishing them. All 3 mates agreed it was pretty ordinary, but then these blokes rate it highly, so what would we know 😉

    First Harvest is the only brew of its kind in Australia brewed using fresh green hops. Once a year, at the first harvest of hops in Tasmania’s Derwent Valley, we hand select new hop varieties to brew a single batch of suport fresh, super premium beer. Within hours of harvesting, the dew soaked, green hops are combined with new season pale malt, Cascade’s exclusive yeast and the purest Tasmanian water. The result is a limited edition finish and prominent herbaceous aromas.

  2. alastairwilson says:

    Re: Resch’s Smooth Black Ale – anything before about September 2008 is before my time, as I’ve only been living in Oz since then. Pity to hear another dark ale has disappeared, though, especially one that was decent – I’m a big fan of Toohey’s Old and Carlton Black as session beers.

    Re; First Harvest – what’s a “limited edition finish” when it’s at home? Sounds like more advertising rubbish to me. Hope your mates are still talking to you!

  3. Nathan says:

    Re: First Harvest

    I can quite easily understand how and why you didn’t like the beer. Beer is a very personal thing and I guess thats part of my website is trying to promote beers we enjoy but at the same time not trying to force a single (possibly bias opinion) down your throat.

    We’d rather let everyone jump on review it, good or bad, share their experience so we can all learn and hopefully make the right choice the next time in a bottle shop or ordering online.

    For example if someone else rates a beer you enjoy highly chances are another beer they rate you might like also. The flip-side is true also.

    Thanks for the link in and it would be great to see you participating on the website. As I said, no-one is punished or blacklisted for posting a review in opposition to anothers review. Its all about having fun and enjoying beer!


  4. alastairwilson says:

    Hi Nathan, thanks for dropping in.

    I’ll let Moses decide if he wants to provide balance at your site on First Harvest – I’ve not drunk the stuff. Perhaps I’ll comment on some other beers on your site in due course. Cheers!

  5. […] reviewed this in my stout taste test in 1999. My views haven’t […]

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