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Beer Reviews

Duck Island Ambrosia Ice Cream Sour Beer, Garage Project, 4.2% ABV

 

Garage Project, despite its humble beginnings in the relatively small country of New Zealand, has made a fantastic ascension to become one of the most highly-regarded craft beer producers Down Under, if not around the world. Founded by Pete and Ian Gillespie, and Jos Ruffell, Garage Project transformed a disused petrol station, which its name gave a nod to, into a craft beer powerhouse.

Early on, they gained most attention from the craft beer community for their 24/24 project, where they brewed 24 distinct beers over 24 weeks. For 6 months, they had to make a new beer every week, releasing a beer every Tuesday 5pm at a local craft beer bar. Folks who didn't make it in time would painfully miss out. This helped build their cult following, as it also demonstrated their versatility and ability to explore a plethora of styles and flavours. The tagline became "Try something new".

 

The good guys behind New Zealand's cult favorite Garage Project. (Image Source: Beer and Brewer)

 

Garage Project's popularity can be attributed to their daring and experimental approach, which defies common themes and embraces high-frequency new releases.

 

 

Their repertoire spans the entire spectrum of craft beer, often incorporating unconventional techniques, through unique yeast trains, collaborations with other breweries, and the integration of unconventional ingredients like breakfast cereals. This approach was the beginning of a broader trend in the craft beer industry, where craft breweries distinguished themselves through innovation and uniqueness.

 

 

Another cornerstone of Garage Project's success is its active participation with the community, being known for creating some really memorable experiences at beer events and festivals. A notable example that Jos Ruffell shared with me (more on my meeting with him later) is their Two Tap Flat White - comprising two distinct beers, an Imperial Coffee Stout and a Milk Cream Ale poured on nitro, poured into each other to mimic the layers and flavours of a flat white coffee and it even has a latte art foam top. Seriously, you have to watch this video:–

 

 

Serving up such memorable experiences cemented their status in the hearts of craft beer fanatics.

Couple of weeks ago, I went back to one of Singapore's most popular craft beer venues, Orh Gao Taproom. Apart from being another beer guzzling excursion, Jos Ruffell, the co-founder of Garage Project happened to be in town to visit Orh Gao, which recently received several fresh kegs of Garage Project's beers. The kitchen prepared a spread of Peranakan dishes for Jos and Charlie (who runs Orh Gao), and Christian from Bad Decisions Imports. 

 

I've yet to find another craft beer venue on the island that matches Orh Gao in the quality of food served. 

 

Charlie very graciously invited me down to have a chat and interview with Jos himself, and I couldn't pass up this special opportunity. But apart from speaking to these bunch of craft beer legends, I took the opportunity for a couple of quick half-pints of Garage Project's new beers fresh off the tap. 

 

Craft beer pals – Charlie (Orh Gao Taproom), Jos Ruffell (Garage Project), Christian (Bad Decisions Craft Beer Import).

 

Here's my review of the new Duck Island Ambrosia Ice Cream Sour.

No ducks were involved in the making of this beer. This beer was made in collaboration with Duck Island, a popular artisan ice cream maker from the seaside village of Hamilton East in New Zealand's north island. 

The ambrosia flavoured ice cream appears to be one of the signature flavours from Duck Island. For the uninitiated, and that would include myself, ambrosia ice creams typically feature flavours and elements reminiscent of a yoghurty sweetened fruit salad-dessert popular in the American South.

 

Here's an ambrosia 'salad'. I can't imagine any other country jazzing something up with so much sugar and calling it a salad. (Source: My Baking Addiction)

 

Duck Island's ice cream features tart raspberry yoghurt as a base, marshmallows, milk chocolate and sour cherry swirls. So that's an indication as to how we should expect this sour to taste.

Duck Island Ambrosia Ice Cream Sour Beer, Garage Project, 4.2% ABV – Review

 

Nose: Sweet, spritely, confectionary-like. Opens with Raspberry Ripple ice cream, blending the sweet, fruity scent of raspberry jam with the creamy undertones of vanilla ice cream, while the sweetness and effervescence brings out a distinct note of F&N cream soda.

Palate: The taste mirrors the aromas, giving a balanced interplay of tartness and sweetness. Opens with a tart raspberry note, but it doesn't overshadow the clean creaminess of it – now, it doesn't taste directly like ice cream, but I could imagine this being an F&N Cherryade topped with generous helpings of soft vanilla ice cream. The sourness is very well-measured, and it lifts the overall profile rather than dominating the palate.

Finish: The finish brings out a nice layer of toasted marshmallows and a hint of nuttiness - in particular it's reminiscent of chopped peanuts and nut brittle. This is coupled with a clean, mild lager-like note, grounding the sour with some beer-like qualities.

 

My Thoughts:

First off, there's an undeniable appeal in the Duck Island x Garage Project collaboration. Who doesn't want to taste their favourite ice cream in a beer? 

But also, fruit sours, pastry sours... this category often gets so overly flavoured by adjuncts to the point that you no longer get the impression of drinking a beer. This release on the other hand does a great job of navigating the line between a dessert and a beer, offering a delightful raspberry ripple experience while still maintaining its beer identity.

As someone unfamiliar with the exact taste of Ambrosia ice cream, my reference point is Wall's Raspberry Ripple ice cream, and with that picture in my mind this  seems to align well with this beer's profile. A bit more milkiness could have enhanced the experience, but overall, it's an impressive take on an Ambrosia sour that avoids the common pitfall of over-flavouring that often plagues this category.

Rating: 7/10

Score/Rating Scale :

  • 9-10 : Exceptional, highly memorable, 10/10 would buy if I could.
  • 7-8 : Excellent, well above most in its category, worth considering buy-zone.
  • 4-6 : Good, okay, alright; a few flaws, but acceptable; not bad, but not my personal preference; still worth trying, could be a buy if the price is right.
  • 1-3 : Not good; really did not enjoy; wouldn't even recommend trying.
  • 0 : Un-scored, might be damaged, new make, or very unusual.

@CharsiuCharlie