As one great 80s icon said, life moves pretty fast. Here we are, almost half way through 2018 and I have managed a measly 11 posts on this blog all year. Eleven. That’s half a post a week, which is a bit crap. It’s not that there isn’t stuff to write about – I have half-written posts and lists of ideas galore, but something always seems to get in the way, like studying for the Cicerone exam or swanning off to the States for a month or doing something that actually earns money.
Anyway, among those scrawls and lists I have a LOT of notes on different beers. Beer reviews that never made it past the pages of my notebook. I have come to accept that I am never going to find time to write them all individually, but for those who might be interested, here’s a bunch of mini beer reviews from the past several months and a bit… If you’ve tried any of them, I’d love to hear your opinions – share them in the comments section. And I will promise to do better, blog-wise.
Ceres Brewery (tasted on tap at the brewery, October 2017): Ceres Brewery finally opened in 2017 after not months, but years of red tape issues. They have a tap room in the main street where you can try a taster tray or buy bottles to go. I have heard tales of quality/consistency issues, but when I visited, the beers, while not world-class, were free of serious faults. The pick of the bunch was the APA (2.5/5), with a nice nose of gooseberries. Their IPA (2/5) lacked hop aroma and came with a displeasing, harsh bitterness that needed to be dialled back. The banana-forward Weiss (2.5/5) was decent, but the Lager (1.5/5), oddly described as “our sweet beer” on the menu, alas lived up to the description. It was far too sweet and displayed none of the characteristics of a pale lager, other than its ABV.
Cederberg Brewery (tasted in bottle, October 2017): When I last dropped by the brewery, they were just commissioning a new, larger, system from China. We grabbed a couple of bottles from the winery taproom and sipped them as the sun set behind the mountains. First up, the Boggom Blonde Ale, whose aroma suggested a beer that would be cloyingly sweet. On sipping it was actually fairly balanced, but extremely grainy, tasting just like chilled, carbonated but unfermented wort. Not unpleasant at all, but it lacked some depth of flavour (2.5/5). The Voertsek IPA smacked of Graham crackers and toffee, but an undertone of stewed tropical fruits was hiding beneath all the speciality malts. Some recipe tweaks would really help here, cutting back on the caramel malts and increasing late/dry hopping (2.5/5).
Breede River Brewing Co (tasted from the bottle, November 2017): Let’s kick off with the bad news. The Beehive Honey Blond is not the strongest of the bunch, and I’m not just talking about ABV. For a start it isn’t blonde – more of a deep gold, inching closer towards copper. But appearance isn’t everything – how did it taste? The honey was prominent – perhaps a little too prominent and despite the fairly crisp finish, I just didn’t want to keep going back for more. It really lacked body and probably needs a bit more malt backbone to hold up the honey. (2.5/5). The Bull Shark APA failed to make much impression on the nose – a whiff of pencil shavings and spice, although when it warmed up, a little citrus came to the table. But it’s a highly thirst-quenching beer, well-made and with just enough flavour to keep you interested (3/5). The White Water Black IPA holds a little butterscotch on the nose, but it passes quickly and doesn’t follow through to the palate. There’s little hop aroma, sadly, but a pleasant combination of citrus and coffee when you sip. It’s a little heavy on the roast malt character, but I tend to quite like that in a black IPA, BJCP guidelines be damned (2.5/5).
Franschhoek Beer Co. Liberty APA (tasted on tap at the brewery, February 2018): If you haven’t been out to Franschhoek Beer Co’s tap room, I suggest you start working on your weekend plans. It’s one of those full-package places, with great food, a chilled vibe, excellent beer and for those that need it, a really nice, shaded kids’ play area. The last time I was there I tried out their food and beer pairing board (highly recommended) and also sampled the latest addition to Franschhoek’s excellent range. When you stick your nose into a glass of Liberty APA you get a hit of toffee, melded perfectly with grapefruit and freshly squished gooseberries (green ones, not Cape ones). It is, as all their beers are, a great recipe that’s perfectly executed. Highly quaffable and recommended (although it’s not as good as La Saison, one of my favourite beers in SA at the moment). 3.5/5
Darling/Riot Pearl Rose (tasted from the bottle, March 2018): I particularly enjoy beers with added grapefruit and this is no exception. It’s also one of my favourites in the extensive Darling range.The grapefruit certainly comes through first – a beer that smells like breakfast. There is a touch of biscuity malt to back up all the citrus although it could probably stand a little more malt backbone. Body-wise it’s a little skinny, but that does make for a highly refreshing and drinkable beer – as refreshing as grapefruit juice, but with a little extra happy. If I gave in-betweeny marks, I would definitely lean towards a 3.7/5…
Homebru (tasted from the bottle, April 2018; contract brewed at Wild Clover): OK, first of all, I hate the name. I find that people often confuse the idea of craft brewing with homebrewing and calling your “craft” beer Homebru does not help. The labels are eye-catching, but they tell you nothing – nothing – about what to expect from the beer (thought there is a great, cliche-laden poem when a beer description could happily go). The Lager ends with a decent enough bitter finish, but lacks crispness and up front it’s sweet and heavy, missing the mark on what such a lager should be (2/5). The Pale Ale is a truly weird colour that I can only describe as murky rose gold. There’s a touch of toffee and a slight floral note on the nose, but when you sip it’s sharp and woody. In my notes I wrote “unappetising to behold and unimpressive to sip”. I think I’ll leave it at that (2/5).
Mad Giant Urban Legend IPA (tasted from the bottle, April 2018): In a move that is most unlike me (a self-confessed Instagram-avoider), I put a(n attempt at a) decent photo before the welfare of this beer and thanks to an inopportune gust of wind I spilt most of it on what used to be my lawn (these days a patch of weed-dotted sand). From what I could tell from the foam that I was left with, it’s has a piney, herbaceous nose- a nice change from the grapefruit-and-granadilla bombs we all know and love. There’s a restrained orange character when you take a sip and while I enjoyed, I felt it lacked a little pizzazz. Must get another bottle and try again but for now it’s a 3/5…
St Francis Brewing Co. (tasted from the bottle, April 2018; now brewed at Devil’s Peak): You might have missed the news that St Francis is the latest brewery to join the Devil’s Peak stable – you can read all about it in the winter issue of On Tap, out June 1st. I’ve always enjoyed their beers and the Kromme Rivier Witbier is no exception. It’s a beautiful hue of pale gold, though the haze typical of the style is a little lacking. A grainy note quickly subsides leaving you with bubblegum and orange zest, fragrant herbs and just the right amount of floral perfume, It’s medium light-bodied, spritzy and extremely refreshing (4/5). Wildside Session IPA is equally quaffable – we shared a 330ml bottle and it was gone in less than three minutes. The aroma is marmalade and biscuits, with more marmalade on the palate. I would love a slightly zestier orange note – more fresh than stewed – but otherwise, no complaints (3.5/5).
And with that, I am probably more or less up to date. Expect more frequent posts from now on…