I really started to miss malty beers after a long QLD summer. Hazies and kettle sours are cool and all but I do enjoy the darker maltier creamier beers on cool winter nights.
And anecdotally it seems to have been the strongest winter for beers in Australia that I can recall. There’s been a heap of great releases, some new trends I’ve enjoyed and a lot of breweries embracing wintertime with special events and beers to match the season.
Nitro beer boom
I’ve long been a big fan of nitro beers. When Mornington Peninsula annouced the first Australian brewed nitro beer in cans, I wondered aloud whether nitro beers were set to explode. It made for a good pun but it turned out to be more of a slow burn until this winter season where we’ve seen some notable nitro releases.
Every limited release from Balter is now an event that causes a stampede of beer lovers entering bottle stores in search of their liquid, and their nitro milk stout Handsome Elvis proved no exception. A velvety chocolate beer with a creamy head. While the hype brings haters, I feel like Balter have done their bit to live up to expectations by producing high quality beers.
Batch Brewing might be Australia’s nitro specialists, their Hopsy Mozy IPA in summer was a pineapple lover’s dream, while their caffeine-heavy Campos Coffee Milk Stout with nitro was very sessionable with a rich coffee flavour and smooth finish.
Wayward’s Barley Midnight Cowboy, a hoppy porter returned for another winter this time with the nitro treatment. It gave drinkers the best of both worlds with punchy citrus and pine hop aromas melded with a creamy chocolate ale.
Nine Fingers Smoked Porter on Nitro is an award-winning beer that is a part of the origin story for this gypsy brewer from NSW. It has smoky bacon aromas the smoked Manuka and peat malts but doesn’t let that overpower the beer.
Bridge Road Mountain Lager is on the paler side, a Vienna lager with a big burst of fruit aromas from the new world hops and a smooth lager finish. I reckon it might have the best pour instructions yet too with a recommended 4 shakes/inversions of the can before a vigorous vertical pour from the can.
I have seen a few examples on social media of nitro pours gone wrong with the Balter instructional video that featured vigorous shaking one source of blame for beer splattering.
I found the new 4 Pines Stout, now Australia’s first nitro beer in a bottle, to be the easiest to pour. The greater height and opening of the bottle mean a straight vertical hard pour leads to a perfect pour with a creamy head every time. This is a really nice twist on Australia’s most accessible and best priced stout.
I usually drink coffee in the mornings and beer in the evenings but really I could drink both all day if I could manage it. In addition to the Campos Coffee Stout, there were some other great beers for coffee lovers this winter.
Nomad’s Piccolo Stout was only 4% but packed a real wallop of a dark Italian-style coffee roast balanced out with lots of lactose to give it a sweetness and body.
New England’s Almond Milk Coffee Stout was a dry roasty stout with a slight nuttiness in the finish from the almonds that was unique.
Probably my favourite of all though was South Australian Clare Valley Brewing’s Iced Latte Stout. It sits right between the beers above in terms of sweetness and dry roasty coffee flavours. The coffee flavours from Sublime Coffee’s 52 blend came through really nicely and had great depth of flavour too.
Dessert beers and pastry stouts
Stone & Wood have knocked it out of the park so far with every one of their Counter Culture releases and It’d Be Rude Not ToFrench Toast Stout is the latest example. It’s a killer example of the pastry stout style that is rising in prominence in the US and now Australia. The maple syrup and cinnamon were on show in this one and as it warmed it became even more delectable.
Wayward Coffee and Donuts was another amazing example of a pastry stout at the Brisbane GABS. This was a decadently donutty beer that had so much flavour in it and just a bit of coffee at the end so that it wasn’t too sweet.
Ballistic Mexican Hot Chocolate was a spicy dark beer with a real chili kick and a decent hit of cinnamon. While Otherside’s Sabbath Stout ’19 was particularly sweet with a welcoming vanilla, hazelnut and chocolate sweetness.
Aether’s Creature of the Night Peanut Butter Stout was a very nutty affair. The body was a little thin but the flavour was there. Word is that another batch with an improved body is hitting the streets.
3 Ravens’ Choc Mint Shake was the latest of their fascinating shakes series and this one had a lovely natural mint flavour. Mint can quickly become overwhelming but they did a pretty good job of keeping this one balanced while allowing the fresh flavours to come through, maybe needed a bit more chocolatey sweetness though.
Black Hops brought back an old GABS legend itself in the jammy marshmellow-sweet Wagon Wheel-like beer On the Bandwagon at their impressive Black Out dark beer takeover of the brewery venue in Biggera Waters. While South Australia, gypsy brewer The Suburban Brew have just released a very nice jammy Raspberry Stout with a dry bitter chocolate finish.
Winter winners and classics
Exit Milk Stout won the Best Stout in the AIBA awards for 2019 for good reason and this beer continues to be a go-to over winter, while their souped-up new release was a Double Milk Stout that really hit the spot and qualified as my perfect winter stout.
Also in Victoria, Holgate released a couple of special big tins to celebrate 2 decades in action. The Double ESB amped up one of their oldest beers and it was a delight to have a subtle style like this, which emphasises elements other than hops. They followed that release up with Double Stout, an oak barrel aged beer that was rich and rewarding.
Sometimes I wish it was winter all year round just so I could drink more great seasonal dark beers. There’s been some really cool dark beer events at breweries too. It continues to be a great time to be alive for lovers of tasty beers.