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.

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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 »

Worst. Beer styles. Ever.

It’s my 100th post on this beer blog and I’ve professed my love for all kinds of beers and beer styles over that time, from milk stouts to ESBs, brown ales to sours, and even lagers. But to be honest there’s a few beer styles that I don’t enjoy so much and some I even passionately dislike, so I’ve decided it’s about time I give these styles the dressing down they deserve.

You might like these beer styles, and that’s ok, but to me they’re trash, and that’s ok too. So with my snark control turned way up, here are some of the worst beer styles according to me:Read More »

Is Ballast Point the greatest threat to Australian craft beer?

It would be easy to assume that the greatest threat posed to Australian craft beer comes from the corporations pumping out bland tasteless pale beers that still dominate well over 90% of the beer market. But drinkers will know the difference between these beers and craft beer as soon as they take their first sip.

And while supermarket craft beers like Steamrail and Sail & Anchor and craft-washed brands like Yenda and Whatever Yak, may fool some with their crafty-looking packaging and lack of disclosure about who they really are, those who also drink full-flavoured craft beer will not be fooled for long by these mediocre beers.

But when it comes to US craft beers like Ballast Point or Oskar Blues, when they are fresh, drinkers will find that the beers are every bit as good as the Australian craft beers out there, if not better.

This is why I pose the question are Ballast Point, and other big American craft brewers looking to expand beyond a saturated US market into Australia, in fact the greatest threat to Australian craft beer?

Certainly the recent influx of Ballast Point tinnies across the country has captured the attention of craft beer drinkers and filled social media feeds. Stocked exclusively at Dan Murphys, they are available just about everywhere and the variety of hoppy pale ales are fresh and really tasty, so I totally get why Aussie craft beer drinkers are stoked.

But craft beer drinkers who otherwise might be drinking Australian craft beer are drinking American craft beer because it’s available at a better price and in most cases it is better quality too. More so than the other threats, Ballast Point is direct competition with local brewers for the Australian craft beer drinker and could impact upon the industry’s growth.

Ballast Point’s beers are of a quality rarely seen in Australia and certainly not at the price point they are being sold at. I was always amazed at the Ballast Point Big Eye IPA being sold for so little and now the Sculpin too can be fetched for less than $30 a six-pack. There are some great value beers available in Australia sure but you won’t be able to find 7%abv+ monster hoppy beers like this at this price and widely available year-round.

There are some great Australian big IPAs out there (see IPAs from the likes of Pirate Life, Kaiju and Feral) but they are mostly in  batches at greater cost, mostly sold in singles, and aren’t consistently available. As the Australian market matures, Australian craft brewers will certainly start making bigger IPAs more regularly accessible, but currently it is so much easier and lower risk for American craft brewers already brewing big IPAs like Sculpin at a large volume in a more mature market to bring these beers to the Australian market.

Smart Australian brewers have long recognised the threat that big American craft brewers represent and have taken steps to decommoditise their beers, differentiating their product and also building brand loyalty to separate themselves from competition. Australian brewers have the advantage of being able to build relationships and putting a face to the beer they brew by participating in events like Good Beer Week and establishing taprooms so that drinkers can see it all up close and take the beers away fresh.

Looking at the positives, the competition that US craft beer presents can boost the standard of beer in Australia and accelerate its maturity. To be fair, where would Australian craft beer be without American craft beer? Most of the beers are heavily based on beers and styles from the US. Copying something from American has often passed as innovation in Australian but that won’t cut the mustard any longer.

With Ballast Point and other US craft beers coming to Australia, there’s tasty fresh craft beer available everywhere at a reasonable price. Buying local and independent will hold some sway with drinkers, but the Australian craft brewers who will thrive most against this competition won’t be those who offer inferior imitations, but those who present a genuinely differentiated beer experience, be that through more creative beers, community engagement, superior freshness, or a great brewery venue.

Brown ales deserve your attention

Brown ales are never in fashion. Brown ales laugh at today’s trends. They neither sound exotic like saíson nor tell terrific tales of long voyages over seas like IPAs.

Yet the unfashionable but ever reliable brown ales make a strong case to be a part of anyone’s drinking repertoire.

Brown ales are located in the beer spectrum somewhere between a red ale and a porter. And what I love about brown ales is that they give you a bit of everything, some chocolate, some caramel, and depending on the style, hops.

When done well, they are nicely balanced and all the elements work in harmony. It’s an underrated style and for me works a lot better than the contradictory by name and sometimes by taste, Black IPA style, which has the potential for a clash between the roasted malt and the hops if not done just right.

Some brown ales to try

Big Shed Frankenbrown – I loved this beer on tap and it presents well in the bottle too. It’s an American style with more aggressive hop flavours, bright and grassy, as well as showcasing the caramel and chocolate from the malts. It punches above its alcohol weight too, at only 5% it has a lot of flavour.

Big Shed Frankenbrown
Big Shed Frankenbrown

Two Brothers Growler is also a classic of the Australian craft beer scene as the Moorabbin brewery was perhaps the first to push the style with this tasty American style brown ale one of their core beers.

The big chocolate flavour and firm piney bitterness reminds of some of the best examples from the US, like the Brooklyn Brown and Abita’s Turbodog.

Mornington Peninsula Brown Ale – To me is an exemplary English style brown ale with every element working beautifully in balance. Goes down well and focuses on the malt characteristics and drinkability. Is also now widely available through Dan’s.

Pact Brickworks Brown Ale – The first bottled beer I’ve had brewed in the ACT, I was pleasantly surprised.

This brown was heavier on the chocolate than is typical for the style while still keeping its foot firmly in the brown camp with a smoother sweeter finish than you would find with a porter or stout.

Mornington Peninsula Russell Brown Belgian Ale – I love how Mornington Peninsula promised me to deliver more exciting beers and they have delivered with limited releases like this one. I like that they’ve gone for intriguing but highly drinkable beers over just big crazy beers.

I’m not always a huge fan of Belgian style beers brewed outside of Belgium but this one hits the mark and is one of the best I’ve had in a while, showcasing the malts and the Belgian yeast nicely.

Founders Sumatra Mountain Brown – Everything tastes better with coffee. Well for me at least. A real sweet finish to this imperial strength brown ale provides a nice contrast with the coffee.

Are nitro beers set to explode?

Many craft brewers have a bit of ‘mad scientist’ about them. Because craft beer is about experimentation and pushing into new (or rediscovering old) beer styles and constantly providing the novelty-seeking beer geeks like me with new tastes to explore.

And one of the latest mad science endeavours in Australian craft beer is nitro beers.

Nitro beers involve switching out some of the usual CO2 that carbonates a beer with around 70% nitrogen, creating a denser head and thicker body. Nitro beers are poured through a special tap or go through a specialised bottling or canning process.

Nitro adds another dimension to beers with the body and mouthfeel. Nitro tends to work better with maltier beers like stout and English style ales rather than hoppy pale ales and IPAs, with which it can dull the flavour a bit.
Read More »

Some Extra Special ESBs in Australia

The Extra Special Bitter (ESB) has a cocky name that belies its appeal as a beer style that is generally understated, balanced and highly drinkable.

What I love about ESBs is the great interplay between the different elements. Without any one ingredient dominating, the malt, hops and yeast are each able contribute their own distinctive characteristics to the beer.

The ESB is a broad style that is difficult to define. It is basically a kind of English-style pale ale that is a bit stronger. These BJCP style guidelines describe it as “A rather broad style that allows for considerable interpretation by the brewer”.

This is borne out in the ESBs brewed in Australia that range from sweet to dry, light to dark, and creamy. Here are some of the best examples going around in Australia at the moment:

3 Ravens English ESB

A Gold Medal winner for this style at the AIBA awards, along with Mountain Goat’s Hightail Ale. It is a bronze/copper colour with a dry earthy finish. This ESB is a really good winter beer for those that enjoy an eminently drinkable malty ale.

Mornington Peninsula’s Dog’s Bollocks ESB

The Dog’s Bollocks is a new release that seems to play on the tendency of UK ales to have bizarre names like Sheepshagger. The beer itself is interesting as a rare canned ‘nitro beer’, the nitro giving it a creamier thicker body that enhances its already sessionable nature.

This beer really hits the mark as a smooth creamy beer with a pleasant interplay of sweet malts, earthy hops and fruity esters.

dog's bollocks square 4.jpg

Napoleone’s Longbow ESB and Fighting Jack ESB

While many craft breweries are focused on following American styles, Napoleone are making their mark through their interpretations of European styles and recently released an ESB for their first canned beer. The Longbow ESB is quite pale for an ESB so is a bit subtler in its malt flavours but has some nice nuances of fruity esters from the English yeast.

Personally I enjoyed most their bigger ESB on tap from the brewery bar last year, Fighting Jack, packing in at over 7% with a darker colour and bigger malt profile.

Napoleone-tasting-paddle
Tasting Paddle at Napoleone brewery bar

4 Pines ESB

4 Pines’ ESB is one of the lighter and sweeter examples out there. I enjoyed it more as it warmed up and the fruity esters of the yeast came through more.

Hargreaves Hill ESB

An Australian classic that may get overlooked by some, I feel like if it was called a pale ale and had a rad label it would be one of the best regarded beers in Australia.

This is distinctly different to other ESBs on this list as the beer is powered by new-world hops, the bright berry and tropical fruit aromas of the Nelson Sauvin hops shining over a sweet malt base.

Holgate ESB 

Holgate’s ESB is a well-balanced beer and good example of the style. It drinks particularly well when it has a fuller mouthfeel after being pulled from a handpump at the brewery bar or at the Royston Hotel say, and is a handy winter beer.

For those lacking for the classic examples of the style, there’s Fullers ESB which is the forefather, and Courage’s Strong Bitter is another. They are a good drop and are available at the big retailers. And for those brewing at home, Jamil provides a good style profile here.

Got milk… in your beer?

Milk in beer?? Well not quite, at least not anymore. The increasingly popular style of beer called ‘milk stout’ doesn’t literally contain milk but lactose, a sugar derived from milk that doesn’t break down into alcohol and therefore adds sweetness and a fuller body to the beer.

Many beer drinkers are put off by darker beers, whether it’s simply the colour or they didn’t enjoy the classic dry stout, Guinness. But the sweeter milk stout may be the perfect style to convert these drinkers to dark beer as it is often easier drinking, less astringent, and plays well with familiar flavours that people typically consume like chocolate, coffee, vanilla and sugar.

For some historical perspective, the style originates from the UK in the 1800s when milk was added to stouts for nutritional purposes and doctors even prescribed if for ailments and nursing mothers. The sweeter style of stout was also an way for brewers to combat the growing market of mild ales.

Eventually the use of the word ‘milk’ in the name of the beers was banned in the UK in 1946 to avoid this false association, but now milk stouts are another historical style being reinvented by craft brewers around the world including in Australia and it has to be one of my favourite beer styles. So here are some top class milk stouts brewed in Australia that I can highly recommend.

5 Australia Milk Stouts that are f’ing awesome

  1. Batch Brewing’s Elsie the Milk Stout – This beer blew me away when I had it on nitro at the great Sydney bar Keg & Brew. I’d never had such a flavoursome beer on nitro before that delivered such great chocolate aromas with a creamy mouthfeel to round it out. Definitely one of my perfect winter warmers.
  2. Thirsty Crow’s Vanilla Milk Stout – This brewery from Wagga Wagga built their reputation amongst beer aficionados for this award-winning brew and it’s no surprise. It’s an even sweeter version of the style with the Madagascan vanilla in there but has all the wonderful flavours and full body. I adored this beer when having from a cask at GABS and also enjoyed fresh on tap from the brewery. Tough to find outside of the brewery’s bar but worth seeking out.
  3. Brewcult’s Milk and Two Sugars – The winner of People’s Choice at GABS in 2015, this is a stronger milk stout than the others at just over 7% and benefited from a mega addition of coffee to create an ultra tasty beer that you could be forgiven for drinking at breakfast.
  4. Exit Milk Stout – Another addition to Exit Brewing’s core range, the milk stout exemplifies all that’s great about the style, the sweeter finish allowing the flavours from the chocolate malts to really sing and seems to make the beer more complex yet still drinkable so that it appeals to both beer geeks and novices alike.
  5. Kooinda Milk Porter – This beer goes under the radar a bit but it is another excellent example of the style. As a milk porter, it has a slightly lighter tinge to it and is not as full bodied as the others but for drinkability and flavour hits the sweet spot.

A milk stout from Castle in South Africa

For some international examples of the style, the UK’s Mackeson Stout is renowned as the classic example of the style, first brewed in 1907.

More recently in craft beer circles, Left Hand Brewing from Colorado are the best exemplars of the style, with their milk stout their number one seller.

The first time I enjoyed this style was actually when I had a Left Hand Milk Stout on nitro at a bar on Rainey Street in Austin, Texas. It has to be one of the coolest drinking spots in the world where old suburban homes have been transformed into kick-ass bars with lovely outdoor drinking areas, and on a perfect balmy Texas night, I parked myself on a wooden table under some fairy lights with this cult beer.

Even on a warm night, it proved to be a perfect choice of beer. The beer while restrained and well balanced, still had enough depth to delight with its dark chocolate aromas, creamy body and smooth slightly sweet finish.

 

Are we living in the peak generation for beer?

I got to thinking recently that we may be the luckiest generation there is and ever will be when it comes to beer. Not only are we living in an unprecedented era of diversity and creativity of beer but future generations will never appreciate it as much as we do because they will never have experienced how things were before the craft beer movement took hold.

In the early 20th century technology like refrigeration improved the standards of beer, then later globalisation increased the diversity of beer styles, and over the last couple of decades microbreweries and craft beer proliferated to increase creativity and experimentation in beer. As a result, we’re now at a point where there’s an amazing choice of beers at our fingertips to a point that we hardly would have thought possible even a decade ago.

Craft beer will continue to grow and become more widely available and we’ve still got a ways to go to catch up to some other countries but for those who really seek out good beer, I wonder whether we’ve just about reached the peak for beer.

Just go to any of the great independent bottleshops around Australia or to a beer festival like GABS and you can find a selection of malty beers, hoppy beers, barrel-aged beers, farmhouse-style beers, sour beers, salty beers and beers brewed with all kind of different ingredients added. Basically you can find any kind of taste you want.

And these beers will be of great quality too. We have access to some of the best beers in the world now in Australia, international beers like Cantillon, Founders and Ballast Point, and then there’s the local heroes like Feral & Pirate Life, and New Zealand’s 8 Wired and Garage Project are as good as any too.

That’s not to say there aren’t great beers and times ahead but I just wonder how much more I can experience in terms of drinking beer? Certainly when first entering the world of craft beer, I would regularly experience epiphanies but now they are fewer and farther in between. And that’s ok.

My point is that it doesn’t get much better than what it is right now, so remember that and appreciate the beers you have.

In terms of wealth, millennials may be the first generation that may not be as well off as the preceding generations. Things like home ownership have become unexpectedly out of reach for many of our generation but great experiences through food and beer have become increasingly attainable.

Growing up our beer options were limited to choices between different brands of bland homogenous beers, and we’ve since witnessed an incredible boom in great beer.

When we drink the latest and greatest beer, we can also think back to 10 years ago and remember just how far we’ve come and appreciate that beer just that bit more than anyone ever will again.