The rise of yeast in Australian craft beer

First came the hoppy beers – the pale ales, APAs and IPAs. Then came the maltier beers – the amber, red and black ales. Finally, it is yeast’s turn to shine, with wild, sour and farmhouse beers the new beers of the moment.

This been the natural progression of craft beer tastes in Australia. As palates have become increasingly sophisticated and yearned for more complex flavours, there has been an increased focus on yeast as a key ingredient for taste.

This has been led by the likes of La Sirene who shipped in their ‘house yeast’ from Southern Belgium and have delighted drinkers with a series of complex tasty farmhouse-style ales showcasing this yeast. Now La Sirene brewer Costa Nikias is exploring harvesting wild yeast from his local area of Alphington in Melbourne to take the range to the next level.

Another leader in the focus on yeast is Bridge Road who were one of the earliest Australian breweries to produce a saison as part of their range. In fact, my initiation to the style was drinking their Chevalier Saison and being blown away by how it had such a unique taste while remaining so easy-drinking.

Now, Bridge Road is creating a series of sour beers with fruit with Drs Orders called Spontaneously Fermented. This article from Ale of a Time, details some of the other sour beers/wild ales from across Australia and NZ with quotes and insights from some of the brewers involved.

Even the big guys are looking to get in on the act. There’s White Rabbit brewery, owned by Lion, who are looking to make a mark with their new barrel room.White Rabbit are now co-habiting Geelong’s old wool mill with Little Creatures and will look to build further on their staples of a dark ale, white ale and Belgian pale ale, which all use Belgian-style yeasts and an open fermentation technique.

It shows some forward thinking from Lion that they are investing in this still developing area of interest for Australian beer drinkers but is a sure sign of expected growth.

Perhaps the surest signs of the ‘yeast movement’ in 2015 came from the GABS festival. GABS is often the premiere showcase for Australian brewers to experiment and a harbinger of styles to trend, so in 2015 it was no surprise to see a significant number of sour beers in the lineup and beers spiked with the funky ‘brett’ yeast, or adopting traditional styles like Biere de Garde, which have a strong on the role of the yeast in a beer.

There’s plenty more development to come in 2016 in this area and I expect the rise of the yeast to continue. For those interested, here are some of the best examples I’ve found of Australian beers where the yeast really shines:

  1. La Sirene Saison – really anything from these guys is worth a try. This beer is unqiue, dry, complex and refreshing.
  2. Napoleone ESB – these guys brew a number of European-style beers that are impressive and highly drinkable. I enjoyed this English-style ale and although you could notice the malt flavours, it’s the fruity esters from the English yeast that make this beer for me. Watch our for the small-batch ESBs at their brew bar too.
Napoleone beer tasting paddle including their ESB
  1. Boatrocker ‘Gaston’ – A limited release beer, if you happen to get it from their brewery in Braeside in Melbourne you won’t be disappointed. Aged in Chardonnay barrels, the Brett element is fairly low-key but adds more complexity to this top quality saison.
  2. Bridge Road India Saison – A combination of great hops and great yeast. This was another shining moment for me, as it showed just how great a difference the yeast could make.
  3. White Rabbit Dark Ale – this one is available everywhere, if you haven’t tried it yet, give it a try. It’s not the most out-there beer, but may be more interesting that anything else at the standard pub.



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