Words and photo montage by Darren TYNAN
What’s the difference between French cartoon icon Pepé Le Pew and Australian microbrewery Moon Dog? Although both are perverse in their methods of expressing love, there are no exaggerated stereotypes to be found in Moon Dog’s creations and Skunkworks is no exception.
Moon Dog are certainly not purveyors of clichéd beer. Since beginning their niche microbrewery in 2010 their legacy so far has been brief yet ridiculously eclectic and inspired. With beer names like Perverse Sexual Amalgam, Henry Ford’s Girthsome Fjord and Mr Mistoffelees it’s worth sampling these beers if for nothing but to baffle your friends with the frivolous titles. Moon Dog may have an impudent disregard to orthodoxy when it come to their marketing, but the lads create each brew with professionalism and take their craft very seriously. They are intrepid warriors in a beer war against indifference and blandness.
Categorically, Skunkworks is a Double IPA aged in cognac barrels but you could think of it in numerous ways… perhaps a stupendous love-potion collected from the tears of a wizard. Its 9% ABV is a little on the hefty side, but let’s face it, this isn’t the kind of beer you’d be carelessly gulping down watching a football game.
What kind of beer is it, you ask? It’s the kind of beer you could drink while contemplating the vicissitudes of the human condition, adorned in your finest furs and sitting on your chesterfield. Contrarily, it’s also the kind of beer that you may drink however you want… sprawled on your kitchen floor or while building a barn with your dad. Bathe in it, if that entertains your perversions which it probably does.
Appearance-wise Skunkworks pours a copper/amber colour with a small head. There’s no sediment but the beer is opaque, providing minute lacing on the walls of the glass and a murky and perhaps unassuming appearance. The aroma is next, and there are whiffs of marmalade, there’s a very faint aroma of cognac here, and surprisingly, not a great deal of hops.
A native inclusion in Moon Dog’s packaging is that they offer a list of ingredients in each beer, in Skunkworks, Summit, Horizon, Chinook and Amarillo hops are used in the kettle, and Citra and Cascade in the barrel. The aroma hops are subtly evident, there are some lovely resinous/grapefruit characteristics, presumably from this dry hopping.
The taste is an amalgamation of marmalade, caramel and resinous/grapefruit hop character, all tied together with delicious cognac sweetness that reminds one of port. The aftertaste has a decent duration and the focus is on this aforementioned sweetness. There’s a hint of ‘booziness’ toward the end that reinforces the 9% ABV, which becomes more pronounced as the ale warms. Generally speaking, this wouldn’t be desirable in the context of Double IPA style guidelines, but a lot of Moon Dog’s ales exist outside of style parameters entirely, so it’s irrelevant to have such a quarrel.
So what’s the verdict overall? Skunkworks is a medium-bodied ale with a delicious cognac presence that’s blended well with subtle hop character. Its hop presence is seemingly subdued considering it’s a Double IPA, but I think more hops would detract from the focus, that lovely cognac sweetness. If you’re interested in innovative Australian beers that explore flavour boundaries, I say give this a try. Stay adventurous!