GABS 2018 Melbourne wrap-up plus Top 10 rated beers so far

GABS Melbourne 2018 is done and dusted after 5 monster sessions and now heads to Sydney and Auckland. It appeared to be another successful year with the exhibition building filling up even more with different decked-out brewer stands to explore.

For me, there were a number of highlights and themes that emerged from this year’s festival.

Nitro beers

A lot of beers were served on nitro as brewers opted to add a creamy mouthfeel to their beers. I’m excited about this trend and hope this carries over to more bars and beers around town. Nitro was used particularly with NEIPA-style beers that are juicy and tend to have a thicker hazy body to start with like the Parfait IPA Milkshake from Slipstream, or with chocolate-y dark beers like the Chocolate Milkshake from Tallboy and Moose, which genuinely tasted like a chocolate milkshake, creamy, chocolate-y and not bitter.

Chocolate milkshake on nitro

Barrel-aged beers

Barrel-ageing is en vogue right now. While the likes of White Rabbit and Boatrocker (noticeably absent) are the big players in that space usually, there are a few others who can play that game too.

Wildflower impressed again with the huge magnums available at their stand, where I enjoyed their Gold beer aged with white peaches, which was a nice peachy acidic twist on the original. And 4 Pines put their foeders to work for a Flanders Red Ale style beer.

Last year’s People’s Choice winner, Stockade, had a quite sessionable bourbon barrel-aged stout, and even Australia Brewing Co. aka Yenda, had a monster 3 year bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout. That beer is also currently the highest rated on Untappd of any of the GABS beers, in quite a shock for a brand owned by Coca Cola, which hasn’t had much to write home about before.

NEIPAs and juice are still big

The New England IPAs were again a big part of the mix for brewers as they experiment with this new yet-to-be-clearly-defined brewing style. Some of the top-rated beers came in this style with Trubble & Squeak from Sauce Brewing and Garage Project OMG That’s The Funky Shit! NEIPA with orange, mango and grapefruit both proving popular with punters on Untappd.

I attended a discussion on the topic that included a couple of Australasia’s leading NEIPA brewers in Brendan Sullivan from 3 Ravens and Jos Ruffell from Garage Project, as well as Ashur Hall from Stomping Ground, Ash Hazell from Colonital Brewing and Luke Robertson from Ale of a Time.

The discussion went back and forth but my takeaways were:

  • NEIPA is a young and ill-defined style at this point with AIBA judges Ashur and Ash noting they were unsure on how to judge the beers, noting for example the bitterness level range was anywhere between 30-100 IBUs (which covers most beers)
  • Some brewers are taking things to the extreme and losing the point of it
  • Garage Project may have accidentally invented the haze craze before it was even a thing, years ago when they forgot to throw finings into a beer and went with it. Jos noted that looking back at the reactions to the beer they were mainly positive as the unfiltered beer felt more organic to drinkers.
  • Ultimately there are some things about the beer, like the low perceived bitterness and the hazy look and thicker mouthfeel, that are appealing to drinkers and shouldn’t be dismissed.
  • At the end of the day, balance and good beer wins out.

Meanwhile some of the NEIPAs of the festival were available on taster, showcasing a range of styles within the style with 3 Ravens’ dark take to Feral’s bright and juicy one, and also including a ‘mix-up beer’. It appears that for the first session on the Friday afternoon the tap lines for Mornington Peninsula’s Squidroot (in red) and Umami (dark) from Morrison got mixed up. You can see the numbers marked incorrectly on this paddle purchased earlier too.

A tasting paddle

Stands are getting bigger and better

This year was more rewarding than ever for those who got around to the stands with each stand offering something pretty special. I saw plenty of punters on the look out for the good stuff too, a sign of the maturing tastes of drinkers.

Beers like Rye Fighter Double IPA from Mountain Goat, Holgate’s Sour Brett Ale, and Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale were among some of my favourites, and there was heaps more on offer that I wish I had the time to get to. But alas, there’s always next year.

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Top 10 beers from GABS Melbourne 2018

Australian Beer Co. (aka Yenda) 3 Year Aged Bourbon Imperial Stout – 3.97 Untapped score

Akasha IIIPA – 3.95

Sauce Brewing Trubble & Squeak NEIPA – 3.9

Pikes Choc Hazelnut – 3.88

Feral Shooter McGavin’s Breakfast IPA – 3.88

Big Shed Boozy Froots – 3. 86

Cloudburst Outlier Hotel – 3.85

Chomp Stout Last Rites – 3.82

Welder’s Dog Brewing Prickly Pear Sour Ginger Beer – 3.81

Sailor’s Grave Wild Strawberries – 3.81

My bet for the people’s choice award is Feral Brewing’s Shooter McGavin’s Breakfast IPA. I feel like the two highest rated beers are going to be too strong to get the popular vote. Of the next group, Pikes needed a more attention grabbing name and Big Shed should come close again after their Golden Time was a highlight beer from GABS 2015.

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USA’s No.1 selling IPA lands in Australia

I remember the first time I drank Lagunitas IPA. It was straight from the bottle while waiting for my plane at the airport in San Fran, which weren’t the ideal circumstances, but even then it stood out as a great fresh hoppy beer and I thought how bloody good is this for a beer at the airport.

And now Lagunitas IPA is going to be launching on taps in Australia, legit and fresh, and rather than out of the bottle at an airport, you’ll be able to drink at at a comfy bar with some nice glassware too, with the initial distribution set to be in kegs.

The Australian launch event was held at the Great Northern Hotel with legendary founder Tony Magee on hand for the Australian launch, while also serving as the keynote speaker at GABS.

“We can’t wait for Aussies to wrap their taste buds around some freshly imported Lagunitas. If you can’t make it to GABS, our IPA will be coming to a tap near you shortly,” said Magee.

Tony has been a controversial figure, often accused of hypocrisy when he sold Lagunitas to Heineken for a figure believed to be around $1 billion, after previously criticising big beer companies.

But he’s also an undoubted legend of the craft beer movement and his story is an incredible rags-to-riches story, from a broke homebrewer to the owner of a booming groundbreaking craft beer business that’s still growing 25 years later.

Lagunitas IPA is currently USA’s no. 1 selling IPA which is pretty staggering when you think of all the big name IPAs out there.

Lagunitas has only trickled into Australia in the past, either through one-off events at the Great Northern Hotel or through grey imports. Indeed my first experience with Lagunitas was a grey import that had degraded into a disappointing caramel bomb.

But now with their beers having official distribution direct from their brewery in Petaluma, California, we should see a higher standard of beer and more regular supply compared to what washed up here in the past.

For those who made it to GABS, they got a bit of a taste of Lagunitas beers at their best. I sampled the Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale from their stand. The beer has one of the best stories I’ve heard for a beer, brewed in response a 20 day shutdown for not properly policing marijuana at their venue, an example of the kind of counter-cultural flavour of the brewery back in the day. A huge 9.8% ale, brown with big toffee malt flavours and plenty of hops to give it a firm bitter finish.

Lagunitas taps pouring at GABS

Lagunitas foreshadowed their entry to Australia earlier last year but after some delays they are now launching with a slow and steady approach. Of the big US craft brewers, they’ve been one of the slower ones to move but definitely have a lot of potential to gain traction with the flagship IPA. They’ll be an interesting to watch here in years ahead.

2018 Australian International Beer Awards – winners, grinners and passion…fruit

The 2018 Australian International Beer Awards were presented to a buzzing and buzzed 800-strong crowd at a glitzy beery gala dinner at Peninsula in the Docklands.

The AIBA awards, now in their 26th year, continues to be a peak competition for brewers and a beacon for quality. Queensland brewers were again among the big winners on the night taking out the Small and Medium Australian brewery awards for the second year running, confirming its status as a rising craft beer region.

The evening was a worthy celebration of the industry, playing to its strengths by offering up a variety of the 2,058 beers entered into the competition for tasting from 28 countries.

Inside the venue, a mobile truck bar served the award-winning beers on tap labelled only by style so as not to reveal the winners. While around the room, ice-filled buckets contained an assortment of beers from the competition sorted into styles and attendees rifled through like kids in a candy store, inspecting the variety of beers on offer.

AIBA awards gala dinner

For the formal part of the evening, each dining table had an ice bucket filled with you guessed it, more beer. It was kind of like a lucky dip with each table getting its own variety. The Firestone Walker Feral Vinifer, a wild ale fermented with grapes, was my favourite of the night along with the excellent AIBA collab beer produced by the previous year’s champion Australian breweries, Pact, Green Beacon, Balter and Stone & Wood.

The passionfruit tart IPA “We don’t do it for the money, we do it for the passion…fruit”, delivered huge aromas of passionfruit, a bit of tartness upfront and a pleasant finish. The beer made for an intriguing pairing with the first course, a cauliflower dish with some heat, some smokiness and a bit of crunchiness that contrasted with the fruity and tart beer.

The food for the evening was prepared by US chef Adam Dulye, the executive chef for the Brewers Association in the US. He stated his belief that the food and beer should both add to the experience of each other rather than just complementing, and that was on show again with the second dish – a hearty beef brisket and veggies dish paired with the more delicate White Rabbit’s White Ale. It worked well as the White Ale drank beautifully, a really pleasant orange and coriander nose coming through and adding to the dish.

For the awards section of the evening, the MCs were industry legends, Pete Mitcham and Matt Kirkegaard, they kept things light and kept things moving before a sometimes boisterous crowd.

MC Pete Mitcham

Winners

Across the various beer styles, nineteen major trophies were awarded, with nine awarded to international breweries, four to New South Wales-based breweries, two each to Victorian and Western Australian breweries and one each to breweries from Queensland and Tasmania.

Gold Coast’s Black Hops won Champion Small Brewery, as well as the Best Belgian / French-style ale for their Beach House saison and a slew of medals, a testament to the consistently high quality beers they turn out of their small operation in Miami. The three fellas behind the brewery were evidently psyched to win.

Brisbane’s Green Beacon repeated as champions, this year in the Medium Brewery category, capturing three gold medals, and Mountain Goat showed they can still brew some quality beer, taking out the Champion Large Australian Brewery, capturing two Gold Medals for new beers in the process.

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Effusive brewing vet Sam Fuss and the business partners behind Philter accepted the Gypsy Brewer gong. While another brewing vet, Hendo, along with up-and-coming brewer Kris Domagala, accepted the Best Next Exhibitor award for Brownstone, a little-known microbrewery in Melbourne’s south-east.

WA’s Beerland Brewing (also known as Northbridge) were a surprise packet capturing Champion Australian beer with their Bavarian style wheat beer.

International champion breweries included Firestone Walker (USA), Mahrs Brau (Germany), and Kereru (NZ). While Three Weavers (USA), who have just started distributing to Australia, won Champion International Beer for their double IPA, announcing themselves as one to look out for.

Download the full results and list of medals here.

The night closed out with some delicious Billy Van Creamy beer ice cream, a cheese degustation, and if you were still going, more beer of course. All in all, there were some winners, the attendees were grinners, and the continued passion in the industry was on display for all to see.

Ballistic Brewing open beer bar in Brisbane’s West End

Since their inception in 2016, Ballistic has accomplished much in a short time – earning gold medals at the Australian International Beer Awards, gaining a passionate following at their brewery in the southern burbs of Brisbane, and building a solid range of tasty interesting beers on tap or in cans across Brisbane and Australia.
They clearly aren’t a brewery to rest on their laurels and for their next move they’ve opened up their own bar in Brisbane’s inner city.

Located in West End, Ballistic’s Alehouse and Kitchen adds to the burgeoning number of good beer options in the city and gives beer drinkers from both sides of the river access to Ballistic beer.

In contrast to the expansive and lo-fi brewery location, this bar is a more intimate space that is low-key and cosy, furnished with wooden tables and panels, giving it an English pub feel, in a small bar package. It’s the kind of place that’s perfect for an evening of good chats and drinks with good friends.

I attended the launch event last week and took the opportunity to sample some of the beers that will be on offer. As I pondered my choice from the six taps on offer, bar manager Mitch, recommended his personal favourite, the Grandfather, an oaked strong ale. This is a unique beer on taps right now with a delicious vanilla tone from the oak barrels and a solid bitterness.

Next up, a can of Driftwood, an oaked citra-hopped XPA, barely a week old and tasting fresh as. Strong aromas of grapefruit and orange a light touch of vanilla and lingering bitterness.

Finally, was the Shadow Army imperial porter, a combo of specialty malts to create a complex full-flavoured dark beer that was perfect for a cool autumn evening in a cosy bar.

For those who aren’t beer drinkers, there will be options, with wines, house cocktails, boilermakers & G&T options on the menu. While food includes options like sticky duck wings, that will pair well with beer, but are sufficiently tasty without too.

The pathway to getting beer out on taps or on shelves is becoming more treacherous, with greater competition and tighter margins, so selling direct to the drinker through your own venue makes a lot of sense for breweries like Ballistic. It’s the same model that Scottish brewer (and soon to be Brisbane brewer) BrewDog found so much success overseas with and there may be a similar opportunity for Australian breweries to replicate some of that success.

The ingredients for success are there for Ballistic and it’s a matter of execution and refinement of the concept. I was impressed by the Ballistic team’s attention to their patrons and most of all, the quality of their beers, and if they can maintain that there’s a bright future for the bar ahead. Judging by the brewery’s breakneck pace so far there’s plenty of further developments to come too.

Being a beer lover and a dad too

Becoming a father changes your life forever. The changes are profound and rewarding and yeah sometimes challenging.

This blog has been on hiatus since the start of 2018, when I became a father for the third time, and this got me thinking about how becoming a dad has changed the way I drink beer.

Here are some ways being a dad has changed my relationship with beer.

I don’t go out often but when I do I like to enjoy good beer

Sorry to go all Dos Equis on y’all but this is true, when I go out I don’t want to waste the opportunity. Good company and good beer at relaxed venues where I can enjoy said good beer and good company is a must for any night out. This selectiveness generally leads to more satisfying outcomes anyway.

I visit breweries with my family

Breweries are usually great family-friendly venues as they are spacious, offer reasonable food and are open during the daytime. The smarter venues out there have realised the value of making families welcome and usually include some features like toys, a play area, highchairs, and changing tables, all of which come in handy.

I’ve listed some of my favourite breweries and most of those I attended with the family. Stomping Ground in Collingwood is probably my top pick of all due to the excellent playground.

Taking your family out to a ‘bar’ may seem controversial (pro tip: if you see someone post on this topic, don’t read the comments) but if you do it the right way it can be a pleasant family outing as well as an opportunity to discover some fresh new favourite brews.

I try to spend less money on beer

The financial hit that often comes with being a parent can take a toll on beer lovers. Craft beer can become an expensive habit and when you start to feel the hit of a single income combined with more expenses than before it’s can be hard to justify high weekly beer expenses.

For me, I’ve learnt to pick my spots. For regular drinking it helps to stock a cheap affordable beer in the fridge to reduce costs. Those Dan Murphys card promo 6 packs for $10-15 can also be pretty tempting too.

But for me the whole fun of drinking beer is when I try something new and different so I try to find the right occasion for good beers, saving up the special ones for celebrations, a weekend treat or a bottle share with mates.

I make sure more than ever to celebrate special occasions with good beer

In my pre-dad days, I would have a good beer whenever. It could have been a Monday night and I might have cracked open an aged Belgian lambic just because I could.

Now if I were to crack open a great rare beer like that it’s more likely to be on a special occasion. Perhaps something like the birth of my child, an anniversary, or if I’m desperate there’s sure to be a International <insert some day that gives me an excuse to drink> Day to celebrate.

Props to those living their best life and popping whales on a Monday night, but I do take pleasure in saving great beers to savour for special moments that are worthy of celebration.

Most recently, after the birth of my 3rd son, I celebrated with a bottle from the revered NSW brewer Wildflower. Fact – life has some great moments and those moments are made even better with good beer.

 

 

I drink quality over quantity

A boozy weekend knocking back a heap of beers isn’t prudent when you have to parent. So drinking less, drinking better is the name of the game. Drinking less helps you to afford better beer, to be more present and appreciate what you do drink, and to still be a responsible dad.

Parenthood may signal the end of dreams of unbridled individual freedom but it doesn’t signal the end of personal enjoyment. It just makes the moments when I can enjoy things like good beer more precious.

 

 

 

 

The most influential beers and brewers of 2017

Since this blog launched more than six years ago, the beers have changed a lot but 2017 saw some of the most dramatic changes yet.

The landscape of craft beer in Australia shifted forever with the sales of Feral, Pirate Life, and 4 Pines, three of the biggest and best independent breweries in Australia. In decades to come, 2017 will be looked back on as a defining year for the industry, time will tell whether it’s for better or worse.

With these acclaimed national craft beer brands being sucked up by big corporations, beer is set to be split along new lines. Quality alone is no longer a differentiator, it’s now also about things like independence, ‘keeping it local’, and freshness.

While the sales stole the spotlight, thankfully there was a lot more going on in craft beer in 2017. New breweries continued to open in a race to fill every feasible locale with a local craft brewery of its own; new beer styles like the juicy hazy NEIPA style inspired brewers and captivated drinkers; and creative new beers with wild yeasts came from a variety of different places and from brewers old and new.

Here were some of the most influential beers, brewers and venues for 2017.

Time to get juicy

In terms of beer styles, 2017 was certainly the year of the NEIPA. The new beer style that had taken the US by storm, quickly spread across the country in Australia this year, and turned us all into fruit juice seeking fiends.

3 Ravens Juicy was one of the best and most consistent examples of the style. It was powerfully fruity on the nose and pleasant to drink. It’s brightly coloured contemporary design stood out on the shelf and a range of variants such as Extra Juicy and Lemon Juicy followed, with more on the way in the year ahead.

This style of beer comes with plenty of hype, which has made it somewhat polarising but be prepared haters, it isn’t going anywhere. A lot of breweries tried their hand at the style in 2017 and had great success so we can expect to see it a lot more in 2018.

Feral and Pirate Life are the best

If I’m doing my top Australian brewers rankings again this year, I would have to place Feral and Pirate Life right at the top, which is what made their sales to Coca Cola Amatil and AB InBev so shocking.

Pirate Life’s Mosaic IPA and Stout released in tall cans, were an absolute treat. The Stout was again one of my favourite beers this year and their Mosaic IPA was right up there too. While their Vanilla Malt Thickshake IPA was also one of the highest rated beers at GABS. Their meteoric rise over the past couple of years has been impressive.

Feral War Hog cans were also a top choice for me this year and certainly one of the best beers available at the local Dan’s. They’ve been an incredible brewery for a long time and I hope that we continue to see that even after the sale.

For the record, after these two, here is my list of the next 8 top craft brewers:

  • Boatrocker – good to see Miss Pinky being sold further afield, while the sour and barrel aged beers continue amaze.
  • Mornington Peninsula – they upped their game again with another year of strong special releases including some barrel aged treats and my personal favourite a hoppy kettle sour, Brain Squeeze.
  • 3 Ravens – the year’s big climber in the rankings in my estimation, a great range of beers and beer styles from a Sourdough Ale to the aforementioned Juicy.
  • La Sirene – A reasonably quiet year after Urban Pale took over last summer, but beers from their Avant Garde series impressed.
  • Bridge Road – the Mayday Hills range saw some of the most creative beers as the veteran brewery defied trends by (mostly) avoiding cans and not even brewing an NEIPA.
  • Modus Operandi – They continued to pump out consistently high quality releases. I loved all of their hoppy beers, but the Black Lab Milk Stout was a favourite too.
  • Stockade – They won the GABS People’s Choice award with Mountie, a maple syrup embellished imperial stout, and put out quality beers like Plum Perfect Berline Weisse.
  • Nomad – They seem to have really found a great niche with their series of Gose beers that are both creative and approachable. The Freshie Moka was a highlight for me, I didn’t expect that coffee would work with a thin body and slightly salty finish but by golly it did.

Sunshine state coming up fast

QLD was behind the 8-ball for a number of years but has certainly caught up fast in recent times. As I became a resident of the Sunshine state in 2017, the timing couldn’t have been better. A number of QLD breweries excelled in awards, while a number of new breweries opened up and got off to a strong start.

In 2017, Green Beacon produced more tasty beers in cans such as their limited release Blood Orange IPA; the mad genius of Bacchus shined as they riffed on current trends with a kettle-soured NEIPA, KSour JAFBalter’s XPA is still one of the best pale ales in Australia and their IPA made for nice drinking too; while Ballistic Brewing impressed judges and locals alike with their beers – the Oaked Ale was a personal favourite.

GABS festival beers good

This year a number of beers from GABS that were shown a lot of love even after the event. Stockade’s Mountie won the People’s Choice award and remained popular wherever it could be found. Modus Operandi’s Cascadian Howl was one of the best seasonal releases, and Hop Nation’s Jedi Juice was a deservedly popular NEIPA around the traps.

Barrels and blends for all my friends

The next frontier for breweries to push boundaries often seems to involve yeast. La Sirene and Bridge Road via their Mayday Hills range, continued to seek out new flavour territories using funky equipment like coolships and foeders to harvest yeast and extract new flavours for their beers.

Bridge Road used the somewhat misunderstood and under utilised Brettanomyces yeast as the base for intriguing and complex beers like Thursday, a dark ale brewed with spent botanicals from a gin distillery.

While La Sirene’s Vin Folie was a 100% wild fermented ale, co-fermented with grenache grapes to create one of the more unique beers of the year.

A personal favourite beer this year wasn’t wild but was aged in barrels, Knock on Wood from Two Birds. This Belgian pale ale aged in French Oak barrels previously used to age wine, had a rich complex taste while remaining perfectly enjoyable to drink.

There were also some exciting new upstarts in this space to keep an eye on in 2018 too. Wildflower surely made the biggest impact on Australian craft beer on a per litre produced basis as beer geeks fell in love with this brewery in Sydney’s inner west with a focus on producing beers using wild yeasts and blending. While in Victoria, Dollar Bill Brewing also entered this space, promising more blending and barrel ageing to come. Exciting times!

 

Sessionable session ales are good for sessions

It’s become just about essential for brewers to have a session ale or Session IPA in their lineup. But is it a valid style or just a buzzword used to rebadge pale ales and encourage more drinking?

While the session ale can overlap with other pale ale styles, it does fill a gap in the range. It’s less strong and bitter than an IPA, but is more bitter than a summer ale. It has less caramel sweetness than American-style pale ales and can weigh in anywhere between 3 to 5% abv.

When done right, session ales hit the sweet spot between full flavoured and easy drinking. For me, I can’t drink big IPAs quite like I used to and I’m not a big fan of the caramel sweetness of crystal malts present in many American-style pale ales. So these lighter tastier drier ales are a perfect go-to drink if I don’t want anything too heavy.

Here are some of the session ales to look out for in Australia:

Mornington Peninsula Hop Culture Session IPA (4.9%)

A cool pop art style can, on the heavier end of this style. Nice and hoppy, it’s fruity with a firm but not overwhelming bitterness. I got around to drinking this one recently after ordering from BoozeBud and I thought it wasn’t dissimilar to Feral Hop Hog and other great Aussie pale ales of that ilk.

Pirate Life Throwback Session IPA (3.5%)

A mid-strength beer, light in colour and malts, heavy in tropical fruit aromas with a medium bitterness. This is my favourite Australian example with the lighter strength making it perfect for certain occasions.

Yeastie Boys Australia Bigmouth Session IPA (4.4%)

NZ’s favourite contract brewers are brewing this one out of Nomad and at a great price currently at First Choice. Using NZ hops, including some Nelson Sauvin by my reckoning, it has a distinctive fruity, almost grape-y aroma and a nice tongue coating bitterness but is refreshing and I want some right now.

Bridge Road Little Bling Session IPA (3.4%) – The smallest member of the Bling family still packs a punch with plenty of hops and flavour.

Founders All Day Session IPA (4.7%) – Founders are generally regarded as the, er, founders of this style with this tasty beer. A classic with all the flavour of the aroma hops, without any over-the-top bitterness or caramel sweetness that had typified American IPAs.

Brew Dog Dead Pony Club Session Pale Ale (3.8%) – This was my introduction to the style and was a pleasant surprise. Now available in cans, lower bitterness with s a citrusy and spicy kick from the hops.

Feral Sly Fox Session Ale (4.7%) This beers seems to have changed from summer ale to session ale at some point, I guess because summer ale is soo last year. But seriously, this is a refreshing beer with some citrus hops and a low bitterness crisp finish.

Ballast Point Even Keel Session Ale (3.8%) – Like the other Ballast Point ales, expect lots of hops and no sacrifice in flavour for this lighter style of beer.

Colonial Small Ale (3.5%) – A refreshing beer with aromatic citrusy hops all packed into a cool can.

 

 

Craft beers & charity – drinking for a cause

The beers have changed and Australian craft beer has really ‘grown up’ in recent years, for better and worse. One positive of the industry’s maturity is the increasing role that brewers are playing in the Australian community beyond just slinging beer, as some have also become prominent supporters of worthy causes and charities. 

Brewers understand that consumer choice is more and more driven by what the beer stands for, as much as how it tastes. This has been a key to the success of craft beer, as many drinkers like the idea of their beer money supporting local businesses in their community.

So it makes sense that brewers are now aligning with social causes that their drinkers are passionate about too, to further reinforce the idea that drinkers are putting their money towards something bigger than just beer.

Below are some brewers with causes that you can support:

Drink Stomping Ground’s Gipps St Pale Ale in support of Movember

Collingwood’s Stomping Ground brewery are throwing their support behind Movember, pledging to donate $75,000 towards the foundation, funded from sales of their Gipps St Pale Ale throughout November.

“Movember is a fun way for everyone – men and women – to help us raise funds and awareness for Movember’s men’s health issues. As a brewery we think we can help create some conversations and we’re very proud to be working with Movember” said Steve Jeffares, brewery founder and owner.

If you fancy a good beer for a good causes, check out one of the supporting venues in November.

Join Brewmanity in the fight against MND

Brewmanity’s tagline is ‘beer for goodness sake’ and philanthropy is a key part of the Melbourne brewery’s makeup.

Their primary cause so far has been supporting the Cure for MND Foundation, having already raised over $150k through fundraising events and a portion of their beer sales.

You can make a donation directly or find one of Brewmanity’s beers to help support the MND foundation in its efforts to cure this debilitating disease.

Join Moo Brew & the Wilderness Society to save the Giant Tasmanian Lobster

Moo Brew are supporting a cause in their local environment, joining the Wilderness Society to raise funds to help lobby the government to protect the Giant Tasmanian Freshwater Lobster, whose habitat is under threat.

A successful crowdfunding campaign that raised over $25,000 will see Moo Brew brew a Giant Lobster Ale. The first case will be sent to Federal Environment Minister Frydenberg as a friendly reminder to sign off on a Lobster recovery plan.

We believe Aussie beer drinkers will embrace the win-win situation where drinking a refreshing ale is also helping to save a legendary Australian beastie,” says The Wilderness Society’s National Creative Director, Rob Beamish.

All profits from Giant Lobster Ale will go into the program to protect the endangered creature, so keep an eye out for this beer’s release.

Drink Sparkke Change to support a range of causes

Sparkke Change are an independent South Australian beverage business with a variety of drinks (including beers) supporting a variety of causes.

At least 4% of any drink you buy, or 10% of every drink you buy direct, will go towards a worthy cause related to that expressed on the label.

Their latest release sounds enticing. A New England Pale Ale ‘What is Planet B?”, supporting the fight against climate change.

See more information about the causes they support.

Support same-sex marriage equality with the Good Beer Co.’s Love2

Same-sex marriage equality has stirred a lot of passion in the Australian community this year with the national postal vote on the issue. Good Beer Co. have previously supported conservation of the Great Barrier Reef, this time have teamed up with Bright Brewery to launch a session pale ale Love2 with all proceeds going towards the Australian Marriage Equality campaign.

More details on buying the beer here.

What is this fruit in my beer and where can I get more of this?

Beers are becoming more and more fruity. Both in terms of the most popular hop varieties today adding fruit-like aromas to the beer, and actual fruit being added in the brewing process.

This trend towards fruit in craft beers has been a while coming but has seemingly reached its zenith of late with the birth of the ‘juicy’ New England IPA (NEIPA) style beers, the proliferation of pale ales with fruit added, and the uptick in sessional sour beer styles like Gose and Berline Weisses that often include the addition of fruits.

Hoppy fruity beers

The trendiest hops right now are varieties like Citra, Mosaic, Galaxy, and, in New Zealand, Nelson Sauvin, which impart distinctively fruity aromas to the beer. Passionfruit, melon, tropical punchbowl, citrus, are all common flavours associated with these hops.

This is in stark contrast to hop varieties used previously in the West Coast IPAs, like Centennial, Columbus and Chinook, which were piney, resinous, and bitter.

The new fruitier IPAs, and in particular the New England IPAs (NEIPAs) are a stylistic counterpoint to these brash bitter IPAs, and tend to be more approachable with lively fruity flavours and a toned-down bitterness.

It’s taken years of hop innovation to breed these fruitier styles that are now so sought after but styles like NEIPAs are still somewhat polarising among seasoned beer drinkers. Even if its immediate appeal is broader, some beer afficianados find these beers lacking in bitterness and, well, beeriness. Nevertheless, these hoppy fruity beers continue to be a drawcard for drinkers and the hype train shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. 

Some examples of beers that really showcase fruit aromas through, include:

  • 20170913_190618.jpg3 Ravens’ Juicy – a really pleasant juicy orange flavour with low bitterness (pictured)
  • Feral’s Biggie Juice – another super juicy but approachable beer that is thick and cloudy.
  • Hop Nation’s Jedi Juice – lots of mango and citrus and plenty of hazy and body, this is my favourite example of the NEIPA style yet.
  • 8 Wired Hopwired IPA – This is the first beer I remember blowing me away by how fruity it was, you could smell it from across the room! Fruity NZ hops at their best.
  • Pirate Life Mosaic IPA – Mosaic may be the hottest hop variety right now and this is a typically excellent example from the hop masters at Pirate Life.
  • Stone & Wood Pacific Ale – an oldie but a goldie, a pale and thin bodied ale, allowing the  fruit aromas from the Galaxy hops to really shine through.

Beer with fruit added

The Gose and Berliner Weisse style beers are slightly sour and tart already, so the styles lend themselves to fruit additions. In fact, Berliner Weisses were historically served in Germany along with syrup flavours such as raspberry,

One of my favourite modern examples of fruit being added to a beer is the Blood Orange Gose from California’s Anderson Valley Brewing (pictured). The beer was trendsetter in this sessionable sour category and tastes somewhat like an alcoholic version of a San Pellegrino Aranciata Rossa, which works surprisingly well.

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In Australia, Wayward’s Sourpuss Raspberry Berliner and Nomad’s Saltpan Desert Lime Gose are two other fantastic examples of using fruit additions to accentuate and add complexity to these refreshing beer styles.

Fruit and hops all together now

Brewers are also adding fruit to beer styles with fruity hops, using fruit additions to further exaggerate flavours and add complexity. Ballast Point’s Grapefruit Sculpin and Pineapple Sculpin, for instance are two popular fruit-added varieties of the US brewery’s seminal IPA.

One local example of a fruit-added IPA worth seeking out is Green Beacon’s Blood Orange IPA. The fruit adds to the citrus aromas present from the hops and creates a distinctive and moreish beer.

Other recent local releases in this space include James Squire’s Tropicana Ale (pictured), which was an intriguing thirst quencher reminiscent of guava juice. Another couple of exciting releases, which I haven’t sampled yet but look forward to are Two Birds’ Passion Victim Summer Ale, brewed with passionfruit puree, and Stockade’s Two Bridges, brewed in collaboration with Brazilian brewery Dadiva, which also uses the addition of passionfruit to complement the Galaxy hops used.

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Winners and losers of the 4 Pines sale to AB InBev

The sale of Manly’s 4 Pines brewery to beer’s dark overlords, AB InBev, was big news, as these kinds of sales always are, but to keen observers wasn’t entirely surprising or as shocking as say the sale of longtime industry stalwarts Mountain Goat to Asahi.

4 Pines were one of the largest remaining independent craft brewers and a logical target for a cashed-up corporation looking to sink its teeth into the Aussie scene by snapping up a local craft brewery.

4 Pines’s focus on producing larger volumes for sale through retail stores, and their rapid expansion strategy, makes me think that they were hoping to attract just this kind of offer at some point.

Whatever the reasoning, the move to sell to AB InBev, is set to impact the industry and Australian beer drinkers. Here are the winners and losers from the deal as I see them.Read More »