I know I said I was going to do fewer reviews recently, however, I did specifically buy this beer just so I could drink it and tell everyone how it is.
Aurora Borealis II is the follow-up to last year’s Aurora Borealis, a beer which struck a chord with the nation, landing seventh spot in the annual Hottest 100 beer countdown. If you read my review, you’ll know I didn’t particularly take to AB1 with the same fervor, either because of my innate contrariness or because it tasted like tequila – you pick which you prefer. In any case, I didn’t want to let this potential classic go by without comment.
The label succinctly tells the story:
Aurora Borealis 2 is the final beer in a series of four from Bridges Road Brewers and Nøgne ø. The origins of this bottle of Tripel are in Norway where it was brewed. It was then filled into French Cognac barrels for unrefrigerated ocean travel to Australia. Aurora Borealis 2 is the sibling of Aurora Australia 2, a beer brewed in Beechworth and shipped to Norway in Australian Port barrels.
In the stemmed pilsner, Aurora Borealis II offers a faint whiff of barrel aging. If I were to guess, it would be white wine barrels. Sour, acid, grapes. All there. I would never have guessed cognac, a type of brandy for those playing at home, which is usually made from white grapes, so maybe that’s it.
Even after the months stored in my cellar-cum-kegerator, there is a thin lip of white foam ringing around the edge of the glass. The beer is leaving some lacing as well. It’s a lovely golden colour but quite cloudy, plenty of suspended sediment. In contrast to most Bridge Road beers, which are bottle conditioned, one would expect that most of the fining would have taken place en route.
Taste-wise, you can count on alcohol burn, sweetness, oak and a hint of mature brandy-esque flavour. Perhaps it would be better to describe it in terms of something everyone can relate to: it’s like a CS cowboy (careful how you Google that) but fizzy and you’re not a desperate middle-aged woman on her last night out and taking one last stab at being wild (I assume).
There’s a sweet trifecta of vanilla, caramel and butterscotch. I would suggest the d-word but I’m not great at identifying it and usually don’t mind it in any case. The burn is at first shocking and then subsides as you settle into the beer. The mouthfeel is not as well rounded as I would like. I think something slicker would suit better.
Actually, scratch that, because as with any high ABV beer, the beauty lies in pouring this cold from the fridge and sipping at it slowly as it warms up to the appropriate temperature. The awakening of the flavours is akin to a flower opening. AB2 also gets a bit thicker as it approaches room temperature, which is very agreeable.
Aurora Borealis II is a winner in my book. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to have the same pull as last year’s effort: the quadrupel leads the tripel by two-tenths on Untappd. I guess that’s typical beer nerd behaviour – painfully obsessed with bigger being better – whereas I feel this is the far more drinkable beer and if you can’t drink the beer, then what’s the point?
- Regionality: Beechworth, VIC via Grimstad, Norway
- Genre: Belgo
- Strength: 9.2%
- Rating: 3 / 3 taste + 1 / 2 ancillaries = 4 / 5
- Plus: Everything about this tickles all the fun parts of my palate
- Minus: Aroma is deceptive