Normally when I review, I like to stick to local beers (and by local I mean Australia and New Zealand). There are a few reasons why I prefer to stick to the ANZACs. Primarily because I want to give them as much support as possible but also because you can trust that it has travelled far less and is likely to be in better condition.
Beer, like F1 cars, or vinyl records, is incredibly sturdy until it is mishandled in the wrong sort of way. A F1 car can do incredible speeds and handle incredible forces but hit a corner at the wrong way and it is back to the pits; Records can be scratched back and forth repeatedly for years, but bump the needle just a touch in the wrong direction and you’ll leave a big dirty scratch.
Beer is much the same. It can be handled fairly carelessly but get some sunlight, or a dodgy hot warehouse involved and it is all over.
This is why I think it is unfair to judge beers that have traveled too far, just in case something has happened along the way.
However when I reached into my fridge tonight to try a beer, all I could find suitable for review was not a local at all. Nor was it one that I had tried before (I like to try a beer a day or so before I talk about it, it gives me time to think. It’s far too easy to judge a beer unfairly on first taste alone).
So lets give this a shot. From To Øl brewery out of Denmark, it is the Final Frontier Double IPA.
I picked this up at Slowbeer in Melbourne – I forget how much it was.
Prior to this, I hadn’t tried any of their beers nor did I know too much about them. Checking out their website I see they are “gypsy brewers” in the vain of Mikkeller. In fact the two brewers started brewing with Mikkeller in college (Mikkel was their teacher at the time, before they were all doing it for a living).
I won’t summarise their story too much as it is very well put on their site and is definitely worth a read: http://to-ol.dk/home/?page_id=6
The Final Frontier is a Double IPA and brewed with American hops (Simcoe, Centennial and Columbus). 9% abv.
How does it look?
I like the bottle. Stark black and white imagery; it looks more like an album cover than a beer but it helps it stand out and was something that stuck in my mind since I first saw the bottle.
The beer itself is rust coloured and hazy with a really nice white head that sticks around.
(note: There are flaked oats in the ingredients which tend to give beer a hazy look and are mostly used in dark beers to give a thicker feel – brewing books warn off using too much in pale beers to avoid this haze but at the end of the day I don’t think it matters too much, particularly in a big DIPA).
How does it smell/taste?
It smells familiar but I can’t think why. The hops are all there, with a tinge of alcohol at the back but it gives something more than just a usual hopped up IPA/DIPA. What I got was slightly soapy (something I get from a Simcoe hopped beer) but with grapefruit and mandarin.
Then I thought about it some more. Burying my snoot right in there like… well like a snooty beer snob… and I came out thinking of apple tarte tartan with thick cream. Sweet toffee, and cinnamon and a real creaminess that initially reminded me of English style IPAs or ESBs.
Tastewise it has a big creamy mouthfeel from the flaked oats and the cream from the aroma carries right through to a short bitter finish. A tiny bit of alcohol is present at the end.
As it warmed to room temperature the mandarin and alcohol become more dominant but not unpleasant.
When should I drink it?
Why not an apple tarte tartin to go along with it? Alternatively some dark bitter chocolate – but either way I would definitely have this at desert. The creamy fruit, slightly caramel flavours lend it perfectly to an after dinner beer.
A real winner from start to finish – although I will say I enjoyed it much more when colder than at room temperature. At 9%, the alcohol does creep out as it warms and it thins a little but right out of the fridge the thick texture and rich fruit really stand out.
One I can’t wait to try again. I’ve heard rumours of it being on tap at a few places around Australia at the moment so hopefully I can get my grubby hands on a glass or two.
Holgate: Hopinator – another DIPA, one I reviewed a while back and one I recently tried again and remembered how much I loved it. Some similar flavours but completely different ways of getting there.
Epic Beer: Hop Zombie – DIPA as well, but couldn’t be more different. Bright clear yellow, rich punchy hop flavours make this a very crisp and fresh tasting beer. From memory similar hops but both use them in completely different ways.
Hargreaves Hill: ESB – Not a DIPA but quite similar flavours to the Final Frontier. A great easy drinker that is nice and hop forward without being overwhelming.