On The Shelf – Kaiju! Beer Double IPA

By The Gentleman

After a short hiatus The Lady and I are back and boy have we come back in a big way with the Kaiju! Beer Double IPA another shining example from the growing Australian craft beer scene.

Kaiju! Beer Double IPA

During our time away from The Cocktail Challenge we kind of got a little bit obsessed with the instant restaurant portion of My Kitchen Rules. The show is just so trashy and awkward, but it’s also quite unintentionally funny. We love Pete and Manu’s serious eating faces where they kind of just stare off into the distance while they are eating the contestants dish and then they turn and look each other longingly in the eye. It’s riveting stuff. When you’ve sat through a few weeks of My Kitchen Rules all the buzzwords and sappy stories about food start to blend into one. One of our favourites is the contestants promise of “big, bold flavours”. A close second is “hero of the dish”. I’m pretty sure you would get rather drunk if you played the My Kitchen Rules drinking game where you had to take a shot every time someone said “big, bold flavours” or some other incredibly cliched food saying. It’s ridiculous. Drinking Kaiju! Beer’s Double IPA we couldn’t help but think that if the beer appeared on My Kitchen Rules the contestants and judges would trundle out the “big, bold flavours” claim. Funnily enough, in this case it would actually be a pretty damn accurate claim.

Kaiju! Beer Double IPA

Kaiju! Beer, who used to be called Monster Mash until a certain energy drink company made them stop, have crafted a monster of a beer. The Double IPA clocks in at a ridiculous 9.1% ABV and 140 IBU and comes in a 500ml bottle. It’s big and it’s damn well bold. The Kaiju on the bottle reminds me of some sort of hop monster, which is really fitting for the beer. It’s a fun and eye catching label that really makes a statement on the shelf. The beer itself pours with an attractive and thick creamy white head and the body is a dark cloudy amber colour. Taking the first mouthful the beer really wallops you right in the back of the throat with flavour. You get some malty caramel flavour and a bit of a bready taste. Really though the beer is all about the hops. They are the ‘hero of the dish’ and they’re big, they’re bold, and they’re bitter. Your whole mouth just gets swallowed up in bitterness that really pushed me to the edge of my tolerance for bitter beer. I was sure this wasn’t going to be The Lady’s cup of tea (or pint of beer), but after getting knocked about on that first sip she settled into it like I did. There is a touch of sweetness in the lingering bitterness to just help things tone down a little. It also makes you feel damn warm from the alcohol content. I’ve had a few high strength beers that didn’t feel too heavy and boozy, but the Kaiju! Beer Double IPA is a pretty heavy and boozy beer.

Kaiju! Beer Double IPA

Now it’s time to crack open another Kaiju! Beer Double IPA and experience some of those “big, bold flavours” while laughing at the latest awkwardness of My Kitchen Rules. Don’t forget to take a shot on every cliche.

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On The Shelf – Matso’s Mango and Desert Lime Cider

By The Lady

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As the weather here is getting hotter and hotter (it happens when you are in the driest state in the driest country!) we here at Cocktail Challenge HQ are feeling more in the mood for drinks that keep us cool. Well, cooler than we already are if that is possible! So, we find ourselves being drawn to cider these days when we are looking to a evening beverage to accompany the balmy nights. Hence, after trying out Matso’s products in our Mango Beer Bellini, we were intrigued by their Mango and Desert Lime Cider. Honestly, we felt out lives would not be complete if we had not tried it out.

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Matso’s Broome Brewery is a microbrewery based in the Kimberly Region in Western Australia. They produce an impressive range of award winning beers and ciders that all have something new to add to the world of Australian liquor. Some of their unique flavours include a Chilli Beer, a Lychee Beer as well as the Desert Lime & Wild Ginger Cider to name a few. The Mango and Desert Lime Cider that we sampled is extremely refreshing and surprisingly not overly sweet. We were expecting that with the mango and desert lime flavour that the cider would be ultra sugary, however this drink had a lovely subtly to its fruity flavour. The cider also had some very enthusiastic bubbles which gave the drink a very fresh and energising character. While we sampled this one on its own, we feel it would go quite well with a variety of dishes and would not clash with savoury meals.

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Also, I feel we must mention the packaging and design of this liquor. Really, what’s not to love about an old school diver man surrounded by flying mangoes? Honestly! We feel like the Matso diver is in some sort of boozy, fruity heaven where one can drink as much cider as you want. If this is what heaven is, we want to go to there. We also respect a company who spin a good yarn about their product and the Mango Cider With Desert Lime has a fun little story about pearl divers off the Kimberley Coast helping save a shipwrecked crew and their cargo, including lots of fresh produce that soon ended up in some unique brews. We love how it captures the rascal spirit of Australia and provides some context to Matso’s diver man.  They also get bonus points for having a fun website!

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We can really see ourselves sipping down many more of Matso’s Mango and Desert Lime Cider in the coming months, in part because we love the flying mangoes and diver man on the label, but mainly because it is just so gosh darn refreshingly delicious!

 

 

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On the Shelf – Lobo Cyser

By The Gentleman

 

By now it is pretty obvious that we pretty much cleaned out the Lobo Cider display at the Adelaide Farmer’s Market. They just had so many interesting and tasty things on offer that we could not resist. Lucky for you we have left the best for last, the very unusual Lobo Cyser.

Lobo Cyser

Cyser, if you didn’t know (and boy we did not know), is the traditional name for mead that has been made with apple juice and fermented honey. The Lobo Cyser is made with apple juice, quince juice and fermented honey from their neighbours honey bees and it’s also blended with some herbs and spices. It’s safe to say that this is the first Cyser we have tasted and it’s not something we would normally drink, but we just could not get over the label.

Lobo Cyser

We love that Lobo are quite dedicated to their wolf-men packaging, but the Cyser represents quite a departure from the Norman Cloudy Apple and Dry Pear Ciders. These guys were dapper, sophisticated wolves about town. The Cyser wolf, instead, is some tripped out version of the wolf from Little Red Riding Hood. Oh Cyser wolf, you so crazy. He’s a little bit dapper, but like someone who’s got addicted and is just trying to keep it together. Those bees make some powerful stuff. We love the way he’s salivating over the honey bee hive looking for that next hit of sweet, sweet honey gold.

Lobo Cyser

A sweet, sweet honey hit it has. Damn son. This thing is basically a dessert wine for cider, or cyser. You need to have committed to not eating any more food before cracking it open because it will need all of your attention. That honey sweetness demands that you sit down and sip it as the sweetness level has been taken to the very edge. The sourness of the apple and quince do enough to stop it going over the edge. I think the sweetness also hides the fact that this is quite potent little beverage, weighing in at 10.4%, although is that high or low for fermented apple & honey mead? We don’t even know, but for something that comes in this small a bottle it seems high, but the sweetness masks any overly boozy flavour. Underneath the sweet and sour we can definitely detect some of the mystery herbs and spices, possibly cinnamon, but we would probably need to have a few more to really work it out (it’s a hard life we know).

Lobo Cyser

Well that’s the end of our Lobo Cider and Cyser adventure. Those crazy wolves at Lobo certainly know what they are doing, crafting some good looking and fine tasting beverages and hey, now we can say we’ve tasted fermented apple and honey mead, can you?

Lobo Cyser

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On The Shelf – McCashin’s Brewery Stoke Bomber Kiwi Pale Ale

By The Gentleman

Stoke Bomber

Nelson’s McCashin’s Brewery is one of New Zealand’s oldest craft brewers, but I only stumbled across it after one of my recent searches for beers with interesting design and flavours. The prospect of trying a Kiwi Pale Ale in a simple yet effectively designed package was just too good to pass up.

Stoke Bomber

The Bomber range of McCashin’s Stoke Beer represents the breweries experimental and crazy side. It’s the sort of flexibility that make craft brewers so fun, they can throw together flavours that interest them and see what happens while we get to drink the often tasty and always different results. The Kiwi Pale Ale is one of five current beers in the Bomber range. The beer gets its name from the local Wai-iti hops that are used, making it a truly local brew. Impressively, the brewery also sources its water from a 14,000 year old Paleo water source that is 350m below where the brewery stands. I never thought I’d write that sentence, but there you go. At least you know the water is up to the task.

Stoke Bomber

The whole Bomber range has a really clean and simple design that is highly effective. The bold white and yellow text on the big 650ml amber bottle invokes a bygone era. You could imagine bottles of Stoke Bomber waiting in the Officer’s Tent after the latest mission. It doesn’t need to be flashy or edgy to stand out that’s the job for what’s in the bottle. It’s a real testament to the power of damn good typography. I’m also disappointed that I only ordered one bottle because the carton for a case of six beers is really cool with a picture of two members of a bomber crew decked out in full kit looking rather intense.

Stoke Bomber

The Kiwi Pale Ale is said to have strong caramel, biscuit and marmalade notes. The caramel and biscuit are definitely there and give the beer quite a thick mouthfeel, but not too thick to be cloying. The marmalade is there also, giving a little bit of fruitiness and sweetness. The caramel and malt dominate the aroma. The beer pours with a reasonable head and lacing and the colour is quite a dark, almost murky, amber brown. It’s not overly bitter with the caramel providing a creaminess and softness to the finish. It’s a slow drinking beer that is quite still, with low carbonation, and gave me a more than expected buzz despite being a reasonable 5.5% ABV. I did notice a bit of sediment in the head and I wasn’t sure if that was intentional, like the Cooper’s Pale Ale.

Stoke Bomber

The Stoke Bomber Kiwi Pale Ale was an enjoyable beer. The bottle is great and the beer has enough flavour from that really nice caramel that sipping it throughout the evening is a pleasant experience. Plus, in a 650ml bottle there is a lot of it so you can sit back, relax and forget that it’s the start of a new week.

Stoke Bomber

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Something’s Changing Around Here

By The Gentleman and The Lady

 

After operating The Cocktail Challenge on and off for over a year we thought it was time for a change. Big things have been happening and we noticed it was starting to get a little more serious around here so we thought it was necessary to update our look so that it matched. This means business cards, because it’s business time. We used our connections and managed to come up with a design that matches the mood and look we are going for with the blog. It’s classy and playful, something that mixes old school style with new school design techniques. It’s like a wedding where we’ve got something old (the style), something new (the technique), something borrowed (the designer who is a good friend of ours and does some pretty cool work), and something blue…actually we don’t have anything blue, but 3 out of 4 ain’t bad. We’re pretty excited to be rolling out our new look for you, our loyal audience, and you will be able to find it across our blog, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram across the next few days.

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While the new look is super exciting four us we also can’t wait to tell you about our latest adventure involving Cocktail Challenge regulars Four Pillars. It’s something a little bit different for the blog but something we really enjoyed and hope to do more of in the future. Look out for it later in the week. In the meantime, stay classy internet.

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On The Shelf – Hither & Yon 2013 Shiraz Cabernet

By The Gentleman and The Lady

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Let’s do this! Sometimes we forget how lucky we are to live in South Australia. Searching for good booze and great design sees us looking far and wide to find something new and different, but sometimes we just need to remember to look in our own backyard. It’s easy to forget that South Australia is a world renowned wine producer filled with many excellent wineries, you just sort of become accustomed to the fact and take it for granted. So we were both pleasantly surprised when we discovered Hither & Yon, a winery located in McLaren Vale, South Australia.

Hither & Yon

Hither & Yon, run by the Leask brothers Malcolm and Richard, focuses on sustainable grape growing and allowing the grapes to naturally express themselves in their wines. Their goal is to be able to leave their McLaren Vale vineyard to the next generation of Leask’s in an even better condition than it already is, which is an admirable goal that all winemakers should aspire to. We were lucky enough to able to get our hands on the newly released 2013 Shiraz Cabernet, and Hither & Yon provide a tremendous amount of information about where the grapes were grown, the conditions under which they grew and the process they went through to get on our table. It is rather fascinating and enlightening to be provided with this amount of information and detail, such as the fact that this vintage was ready earlier than expected and also experienced less disease resulting in cleaner fruit. If you consider yourself a wine aficionado or just want to educate yourself more about where your wine is coming from then its a delightful extra that shows how much Hither & Yon care about their wine.

Hither & Yon

What really attracted The Lady and I to Hither & Yon is their design philosophy. Each Hither & Yon wine is based on the same classic design, a white label with Hither and Yon written in an almost label maker style. Separating the two is a giant ampersand which is where Hither & Yon gets a bit funky. Each ampersand is big and bold, becoming a canvas for the team at Voice Design to give each bottle it’s own unique style.  The whole line showcases a bunch of great different styles but we have no problems saying the 2013 Shiraz Cabernet is our favourite. The label utilises a really cool nautical tattoo style that reminds us of one of our favourite tattoo shops, Salon Serpent Tattoo and the super talented Angelique Houtkamp. The shape of the bottle is subtle and pleasing to the eye, and compliments the classic look of the wine’s label. The colours of pale pinks and blues used in the tattoo-styled ampersand are warm and inviting. The illustration used on this wine’s design depicts clouds and the ocean and this view is almost a secret peeping hole into a gorgeous, colourful sea-side world. Personally, we would love to be watching this view as we drink Hither & Yon. Can we make this happen people?!

Hither & Yon

Hither & Yon’s 2013 Shiraz Cabernet tastes so very fresh and new, despite its deep dark purple colour which shows just little flashes of red. The wine has not had any time to mellow out, instead it just envelops you in big dark fruit flavours and quite prominent tannins. It leaves a rather pleasant dryness, particularly on the roof of your mouth, and there are hints of bitterness in the aftertaste. The Gentleman has been brushing up on his wine tasting lingo and the tannins are rather chewy. As you sip the wine (and it’s definitely more of a sipping wine, which is fine because that way you can savour and enjoy the flavours), you want to run your tongue around your mouth to clean out the tannins. It sounds weird but it’s actually a really nice sensation that makes the wine linger on your palate. In the words of Daym, the difference between a weak red wine and a red wine that has strength is a weak red wine you can gulp down and still talk while a red wine that has strength just absorbs all the moisture in your mouth so even if you wanted to gulp it down all you could do is sip it and nothing but hmm, hmm, hmmm is coming out followed by some mad lip-smacking. Okay that was probably one of the weirdest ways you’ll hear a wine described, but deal with it.

Hither & Yon

Oh my Hither, oh my Yon this is a damn fine Shiraz Cabernet. We did this! Okay we’ll stop quoting Daym now, but seriously if you can get a few bottles then do it and enjoy one now and put one away. We really enjoyed the fresh flavours of this Shiraz Cabernet, but would be really excited to see what it’s like in a few years time.

Hither & Yon

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Disclaimer: The Cocktail Challenge was provided a free sample bottle of Hither & Yon 2013 Shiraz Cabernet for this article. Although this post is sponsored all opinions are our own.

On The Shelf – Some Young Punks Naked on Roller Skates

By The Gentleman

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This is a special entry from The Lady and I, we are finally getting around to talking about one of our favourite wineries, Some Young Punks. Some Young Punks are not only dishing out good looking and great tasting wines, but they are also a proud SA local winemaker.  They were pretty much the winery that introduced me to awesome label design, shaking up my view on an industry that I thought was characterised by traditional and plain labels.

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Some Young Punks was established in 2006. They are part of the new generation of young Australian winemakers who focus on small scale wine production that explores some interesting blends and styles of grape to bring something that mixes a little of the new with the old. The small scale nature makes the wines rather sought after, so make sure you snap up a bottle whenever you see it otherwise you might not be able to enjoy it another time. The Naked on Roller Skates is not the first bottle of Some Young Punks we’ve had, but it’s the bottle that happened to take our fancy at the moment. The wine is part of their Pulp Series of wines, which is inspired by the images associated with ‘low brow’ literature from the 20’s through to the 50’s. The images act as the sirens to draw people’s attention to the wines and help them stand out from the crowd. They certainly achieve that, catching the eye of The Lady and I. The Naked on Roller Skates is the perfect blend of cheekiness and class that the old pinup artist could capture so well. The image is bold and feisty and just looks gorgeous. It shows that sometimes low brow knows how to have a lot more fun than high brow and sometimes you just need to let your hair down and go with it.

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The wine itself is a blend of Shiraz (85%) and Mataro (15%) from McLaren Vale. It has a really deep purple colour to it and strong dark fruity flavours on the nose. The dark fruit flavours continue throughout the wine, you can really pick up deep red and black berry fruits like plum and cherry. The fruits didn’t make the wine too sweet though. I’ve probably had the bottle for about a year, on top of being a 2010 vintage, and the wine has really mellowed out. It’s got a very smooth texture and almost savoury sort of flavour to it. You also get slight hints of liquorice and a really pleasant lingering spiciness. We couldn’t quite put our finger on what, just a general nice spice, which provided a very pleasant aftertaste. The wine also wasn’t too heavy. As you can see The Lady and I indulged in some rather big glasses, but despite the bold, dense flavours the wine itself was not so intense that you felt like you needed to have a nap afterwards. This is something that is always a bonus when you’re trying to feel like a mature, adult human being who drinks wine.

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The wine inside definitely lives up to the label as it’s quite a bold, intense wine yet there’s that surprising smoothness to the finish. We really couldn’t get over the smoothness despite those big flavours. It’s definitely the sign of a high quality wine. Naked on Roller Skates may be the first Some Young Punks wine we have featured on the blog, but it certainly won’t be the last.

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