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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Top 10 GABS beers in 2017 according to Untappd

The Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular aka GABS kicked off with a bang in 2017 in its first weekend in Melbourne. Beer lovers from all over congregated at the historic Royal Exhibition building for another year of unique beer tastes and festivities.

I was lucky enough to attend the event, courtesy of GABS, and pulled off the doubleheader on Friday for back-to-back sessions. For me, the event lived up to its name with a great lineup of beers, a marketplace packed with stands of good beers and beer people, and lively entertainment from Little Creatures Live acts.

There were some definite themes that emerged among the beers this year, with a lot of New England IPAs, the hazy juicy style sweeping the US, a range of spiced beers including a few Curry-inspired beers, and plenty of dessert-style beers, presumably trying to recapture the winning formula of many past GABS winners.

GABS legends and defending champs Bacchus didn’t make it to this year’s event, so who will take their crown as the People’s Choice winner? We’ll have to wait a little while to find out but in the meantime we can speculate with the aid of some Untappd data, which gives an indicator of what beers were most highly rated by punters in Melbourne. I checked the data following the event and these were the top 10 highest rated.

Top 10 GABS beers according to Untappd ratings as at 30 May 2017

1. Stockade – Mountie Maple Imperial Stout – The people of Untappd found this 12%+ beast of a beer a standout and I totally agree. Someone compared this beer to McDonald’s hotcakes and I think they’re right, but even more surprisingly, it actually works too.

2. Akasha – Lupulin Fog Double IPA – They are one of the best in the biz at doing hoppy beers, so no surprise to seem them come out on top in the battle of the juicy IPAs.

3. Pirate Life – Vanilla Thickshake IPA – Pirate Life is giving winning the People’s Choice award a good, er, shake with this beer. A dessert beer and an IPA that works from a beloved brewer, this may be a prohibitive favourite for the People’s Choice award now.

4. Little Rivers – Little Licka – perhaps the surprise of the event this little known Tassie brewer won a place with a nostalgic Red Rope Licorice style beer that hit the mark.

5. Sierra Nevada – Bombastic Montastic Belgian Brown – One of the very few international brewers at GABS, they earned their keep with this beer, a really nice complex sipper at just over 10%.

6. Feral – Dark Matter – This one stood out by being not as ‘out there’ as other beers but just being a really nice ‘normal’ chocolate porter. Hopefully we see more of it.

7. Modus Operandi – Cascadian Howl – A Black IPA or Cascadian Dark Ale, is a style that is sometimes maligned and somewhat restrained for GABS, but in the reliable hands of hop-loving MO, it seems to have paid off with the Sydney punters in particular.

8. Hop Nation – Jedi Juice – Another new entry to the top 10 after the Sydney GABS. Another juicy IPA from another hop-loving brewer. Departing the top 10 following Melbourne GABS are Hawkers/Wheaty’s Baklava Brown and 2 Brothers’ The Smoking Jacke.

9. (tied) DeedsJuice Train New England IPA – one of the success stories from the many juicy IPAs on offer, from a somewhat unexpected source.

Moon DogThe Jimmy Laureys – A big bold 22% abv Belgian Strong Ale, personally I wasn’t game to try it, but it clearly won some fans.

And for the record, here are some of my other top picks for beers I enjoyed at GABS.

10 other GABS beers I enjoyed

  1. Wayward – Funky Hoppy People – a hoppy and sour beer, this was something I felt I could easily drink more of.
  2. Chur – Chocolate Fish Milk Stout – This is a classic GABS dessert-style beer with a strong candy-ish raspberry character that indeed tastes like pink marshmallows.
  3. Shambles – ‘Cool Runnings’ Whole Coffee Stout – creamy with plenty of coffee and a subtle earthy, berry flavour, this one was enjoyable.
  4. Willie the Boatman – Marvin Berry’s Choc-Milk Stout – Another sweet stout with cacao, strawberry and raspberry that is well put together with a dry-ish finish.
  5. 3 Ravens – Mango Lassi IPA – surprisingly well balanced, a creamy sour and mango beer that goes down alright.
  6. Wolf of the Willows – ‘Raisin Kilts’ Rum n Raisin Scotch Ale – another one that actually drinks pretty easy as it isn’t overly sweet or rummy.
  7. Yeastie Boys – Royal Tanninbomb – An amped up version of their classic GABS winner, Gunnamatta, the IPA with Earl Grey flowers. The Earl Grey can be a bit overbearing for some, but for me, I liked it.
  8. Emporium – No Whey? Yes Whey! – You go to GABS to drink something different, and this white stout with whey was certainly that.
  9. Shenanigans – Flower Power – this lighter refreshing sour wheat beer with some subtle floral aromas was a good change-up beer.
  10. Stone & Wood – Salty Sour East – A particularly salty and funky gose, so if you like that kind of thing, which I do, then it’s good.

GABS at the Royal Exhibition Building

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.

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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.

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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.

Best Australian Brewers Power Rankings

Who would you rate as Australia’s best brewers? This is the question that I’m answering on a regular basis with these Power Rankings that break down the best brewers in Australia.

I determine the best brewers based on a criteria of:

  • Quality of core range/go-to beers
  • Quality of seasonal and one-off beers
  • Good breadth and diversity of beer styles produced
  • Creativity and innovation in the beers produced
  • Availability of beers across Australia

December 2016 Power rankings for the best brewer in Australia

My latest subjective ranking of Australia’s best brewers with their previous ranking in brackets.

10. tied (new) 4 Pines / Murrays

4 Pines continue to grow and expand as one of Australia’s biggest independent craft brewers. They also make really good beer that is accessible anywhere. Their Amber Ale, brewed with a healthy amount of the excellent Mosaic hop, was their best core beer yet. While I may not rush to get their one-offs, they produce good beers in a wide range of styles.

I also had to have Murrays on this list after they returned to form in a big way this year. They seemed to have dropped off the craft beer radar a bit but really came back to form this year with their special releases including Thunderbolt IPA that won Crafty Pint’s blind tasting, Coffee Wild Thing (see above) and Skully, a Red IPA.

9. (10) Wayward 

I was stoked to visit their premises in Annandale this year and sample more of their impressive range. I’m yet to have a bad beer from these guys and they have a great variety of beers beyond just pale ales.Their Fat Charmer, a bigger version of their classic Charmer Red Ale, was a highlight for its flavour and drinkability at the NSW Pint of Origin, while I also enjoyed their tart Sourpuss raspberry Berliner Weisse and dry fruity Saison. They’ve also started bottling this year so we should more of their core range.

8. (9) Bacchus Brewing 

My wish came true and we’re seeing more and more of their beers available in good beer stores. They became the first two-time People’s Choice GABS winners with their win at this year’s festival with the Peanut Brittle Gose that was another desser-like beer – sweet with a salty finish in a unique take on the style.

7. (4) Holgate

Their Flanders Red ale has received quite the praise from Crafty Pint and their barrel-aged stout also had some good wraps. I enjoyed their Tangelo Gose and these craft beer vets showed that they are still among the best in the business.

6. (6) Mornington Peninsula

I was really impressed by the range this year. Nothing too crazy but a good range of different styles released regularly and all done well. I mentioned A nice complement to one of the best core ranges in the business.

4. (7) Pirate Life

Another big year for Pirate Life, quickly moving up these rankings and set to be one of the top performers again in the Hottest 100. Their Triple IPA at GABS delighted the punters with the best rating on Untappd and they turned out a good range of beers this year. I was most impressed by their stout, particularly as it was the first beer of theirs I’d had that wasn’t hop-focused.

4. (5) La Sirene

La Sirene is all class. Their beers are always well-made, complex and intriguing. Their Avant Garde series met a lot of praise (and had beautiful labels), while their Urban Pale was a great first example of them bringing their farmhouse-style beers to a wider audience.

3. (3) Bridge Road

Continue to pump out creative beers that push the envelope and bring Australia craft beer forward. The Mayday Hills range, featuring a huge wooden barrel innoculated with brett yeast is the latest example of that. While I also found their duo of Biere De Wilde beers featuring wild yeasts from different winemakers intriguing and tasty.

2. (2) Boatrocker

The barrel program continues to be a success and produce high-quality beers that are unmatched in Australia. Ramjet once again impressed as one of Australia’s best beers, big and flavoursome and balanced, while the Dark Saison was probably my favourite beer this year from them. They are breathing down the neck of Feral at no. 1.

1. (1) Feral

A relatively quiet year in my books from Australia’s best brewer but they still have a great core range of beers complemented by a variety of excellent limited releases. It seems that many agree with me on their ranking as Beer Cartel’s industry survey also had them in the top spot. Look forward to seeing what they do after moving to a new brewery with greater capacity this year.

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.

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3 hot spots across Australia where craft beer is taking off in 2016

Hot spot 1: Sydney’s inner west

One of the more exciting developments for me in 2015, was both watching from afar and seeing firsthand, the development of the Sydney beer scene. Long the straggler in Australian craft beer, it may now be the leader, as brewery after brewery opened their doors and started pouring awesome beers.

And the hottest of the hot spots in Sydney is the inner west where Willie the Boatman, Wayward Brewing, Akasha and Grifter have all opened breweries in recent months. They join established breweries of Newtown vets Young Henrys, as well as 2014 opened breweries from Batch Brewing and Rocks Brewing.

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Wrapping up the Great Australasian Beer Spectapular aka GABS 2015

Australia’s biggest beer festival again took over Melbourne’s iconic Exhibition Building for three days with more than 16,000 people attending and 300,000 tasters being poured, before taking its act to Sydney for another full day. I was fortunate enough to attend  all 3 days of the event in Melbourne, taking to chance to talk to soak in GABS’s unique atmosphere, talk to the people behind the beers, and taste a bucketload of beers.

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An introduction to Hawkers beer at Good Beer Week

If you haven’t yet heard of Hawkers beer, I expect that’s going to change in the near future. Their brewery in Reservoir is apparently among the largest for craft beer producers in Australia and they’re led by the experienced hands of Mazen Hajjar, known for his Lebanese craft beer range 961, and restaurateur Joe Abboud, owner of Rumi and the Moor’s Head.

And most importantly, since they started appearing around the craft beer circuit earlier this year, the reaction to their beers has been overwhelmingly positive. I hadn’t had the chance to try their beers myself yet so when I saw the chance to sample their wares at a Good Beer Week event last Sunday alongside food from a personal favourite restaurant in the Moor’s Head, I jumped on it.

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The Moor’s Head is a gourmet Middle Eastern pizza restaurant and they had four courses to match the four beers from Hawkers’ core range for the event. Mazen and Joe were also on hand at the event to provide some insight and stories behind the beers.

So how was the beer?

I think Joe summed up the Hawkers approach best when he noted their range is very much to-style, nothing crazy or out there, but still full-flavoured. This range sets them up perfectly to really crossover to the mainstream while also being a go-to favourite for craft beer lovers.

Their Pilsener is probably the beer you give to your non-craft beer drinking friends when they come over. It’s a Czech-style pilsener with a bit of bitterness at the finish but not too much.

Next up was the saison, which was my favourite of the range, it’s a traditional Belgian beer style that is gaining popularity for its versatility and drinkability. This one used a Belgian yeast from a small town on the French side, it gives off some lovely fruity esters but the beer remains nicely in balance, complex but sessionable, a saison at its best.

I wonder if this will be the first saison in Australia to truly become an everyday beer, available in multi-beer packs for a reasonable price all year round. I hope so as this would truly be a great go-to beer.

image-c2079db9f110de48325d3dcbf8b5c46df268b3793db684abeb58c8f9bf00702e-VFollowing on was the Pale Ale, hoppy but not overly so with pleasant citrusy hops aromas. Joe explains that they used Citra instead of Galaxy because they couldn’t get their hands on the latter. All for the better for me as I find the overt fruitiness of the Galaxy a bit overbearing, and the bitter citrus notes of the Citra make a welcome replacement.

Finally, kicking things up a gear with more malt, more hops, more alcohol, is the IPA. It goes surprisingly well with the ricotta and honey calzone. I do like this amped-up beer myself but I might need to revisit this one at a later date with a cleaner palette.

All in all, the event was a great chance to try a top-class range from this exciting new brewery in Melbourne’s north-east. Along with the always top-notch food from the Moor’s Head, my belly went home plenty full and satisfied.

The balance and professional quality of the Hawker beers is a promising sign of things to come. I’ll be interested to try more of their beers as they expand their range starting with the Imperial Red Ale slated for the GABS festival and possibly an Imperial Schwarzbier on the way from the Good Beer Week masterclass at the brewery.

GABS 2015 preview and my top 20 festival beer picks

GABS 2015 draws near and it’s time to start preparing your assault on Australia’s biggest beer festival. I’ve examined the GABS 2015 guide and the 110 plus beers for this year and noticed a few beer styles trending this year:

  • Sour beers – get ready to pucker up because there’s a lot of sours on offer. Last year there were some great ones and this dearly beloved but also divisive style is back in a big way with the previous two years winners going sour.
  • Dessert-style beers – after winning the last two years it’s no surprise that sweet dessert-style beers are making an appearance with Snickers, Golden Gaytime, Cherry Ripe, Black Forest Cake and Lamington style beers being brewed to name a few.
  • Dark beers – there are a lot of porters and stouts on offer too, which is likely a product of timing, as brewers gear up for winter seasonals after GABS.
  • Saisons and pale ales with limes – On the lighter bodied side, there’s a variety of saisons on offer, and a number of pale ales and IPAs brewed with limes.

But basically every area of the taste spectrum is covered across the list and if you like good beer, you won’t find it hard to find something to your liking.

Picking which ones to miss of course will be the hard part. For those new to the festival, anything more than 4 paddles in a session and the beers are going to start to blur together, so take it slow and pick out the ones you really want to try to get the most out of the event.

After much deliberation, here’s my rundown on my top 20 (or 4 paddles worth of) festival beers that I’ll be sure to drink from a mix of tried and true brewers and exciting newcomers. Without further ado…

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