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Crafty Pint

Your Guide to Australian Craft Beer / Thursday 24 April 2014

Little Creatures (WA)

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Would the Australian craft beer scene be where it is today without Little Creatures? Just like founder Phil Sexton’s first foray into craft beer at Matilda Bay, the Fremantle brewery has helped blaze a trail for others to follow since opening in 2000, never less than with its iconic Pale Ale, the first Aussie beer to give drinkers a taste of the big, hoppy US pales that had wowed the States years earlier.

Since opening on the site of a former crocodile farm on the Freo waterfront, Little Creatures has become a runaway success. The brewery and accompanying bar gets bigger and bigger by the year, now encompassing several huge sheds featuring expanses of glass that let the stainless steel tanks take centre stage. Meanwhile, their beers continue to spread the craft beer word into every corner of the country – and have started flying the flag for the Australian beer scene overseas too.

More recently, Little Creatures has opened a dining hall in Melbourne’s iconic Brunswick Street, a colourful, cavernous venue that’s packed every day of the week serving up their beers alongside a handful of other Aussie and international labels plus pizzas and other food suitable for accompanying beer. It also pours beers from White Rabbit, Little Creatures' little brother brewery in Healesville that uses the old brewhouse from Freo that was replaced in 2008.

As for the beer, the brewery’s main offerings have remained pretty settled for some time now, with the Pale augmented by the Bright Ale, Roger’s and a Pilsner. But just as visitors to the Freo HQ have been treated to regular limited release beers, now drinkers across Australia get to sample something new every few months in the form of the Single Batch releases, which have so far included an Oatmeal Stout, a Brown Ale and a single hop East Kent Golding Ale. The regularity with which these appear is expected to increase, while at some point in the future, the Little Creatures empire will be getting that little bit bigger after the parent company, Little World Beverages, bought a large plot of land in Geelong where they intend to open a third brewery.

Regulars

Little Creatures Pale Ale

Can anything be said about this beer that hasn’t already been said? When it first appeared as Little Creatures “Live” on the day the brewery opened, it shocked even the bar staff who were about to serve it to the public with its punchy interpretation of big, hoppy American style pales. And while many have imitated since, it remains a standout on the Aussie beer scene. Possessing everything you would want in the style – pungent hop aromas, softly layered malts and a satisfyingly big and lingering bitterness – it’s a beer that has done as much to change Aussie palates as much as any. And, while some beers have since gone much bigger and hoppier, we challenge you to sit any craft beer fiend down with one and tell you they don’t love it. As for the facts, it contains a load of whole Chinook and Cascade hop flowers sourced from Washington and Oregon in the US as well as Tasmania are thrown at this beer. These create an intense citrus and grapefruit aroma and flavour balanced with a careful selection of specialty malts and a local pale malt. It is live-yeast conditioned in bottles and kegs for freshness and character and is best enjoyed from a glass.

Style: US Pale Ale
Strength: 5.2%
Bitterness: 38 IBU

Little Creatures Pilsner

A take on the classic European style that blends Aussie and Kiwi hops to create a light, refreshing lager with a crisp bitterness. An extended fermentation period ensures it’s a clean beer, one for quenching thirsts when the mercury rises.

Style: Pilsner
Strength: 4.6%

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Little Creatures Rogers Ale

As some parts of the Aussie craft beer scene seek bigger and more bizarre beers, we believe there’s also the need for more full-flavoured, lower alcohol beers – which is just what Rogers has delivered for years. Belying its mere 3.8% ABV, it’s what the brewers describe, with justification, as “a silky session ale”. Nicely balanced flavours from whole hop flowers and toasted malts give the drinker light, citrusy aromas and roasted hazelnut, toffee and caramel malt flavours in an easy-drinking ale. The name is a tribute to Roger Bailey and Roger Bussell, two legends of local brewing in WA.

Style: Amber Ale
Strength: 3.8%

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Little Creatures Bright Ale

A beer that we’re positive has played a role in the conversion of many a dyed-in-the-wool swill drinker to the world of better beer, Little Creatures Bright Ale is a fantastic gateway beer to the Promised Land. Described as “sunshine in a glass” by the people that make it, it blends Vienna and Cara malts with Aussie pale malt and aromas of pineapple, passionfruit and melon thanks to the use of whole US Cascade and NZ Motueka hop flowers.

Style: Golden Ale
Strength: 4.5%

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Little Creatures IPA

Such has been the regularity with which Little Creatures has released its Single Batch beers, it might come as a surprise to know that it’s fully seven years since the release of the last permanent beer in their range. But now you can add an IPA to the stable that began with the Pale Ale (originally called “Live”), Pilsner, Bright and Rogers. In their own words, the idea was to give lovers of their Pale Ale “a little more” and they’ve done just that. After leaving its British Racing Green bottle, the beer might look similar in your glass to what we can now call its little brother, albeit marginally deeper in colour, but you don’t have to get too close to realise it’s definitely bigger. Hops from the UK (East Kent Goldings), Australia (Victoria’s Secret), New Zealand (Southern Cross) and the US (Amarillo) create a welcoming blast of tropical and citrus aromas, with a touch of spice and sweet caramel malt in there too. There’s plenty to get your teeth into – all in the well balanced Little Creatures manner, of course – with enough bite to provide avowed hopheads with an IPA they can happily sit on but not so much that those venturing into IPAs for the first time are frightened away. Check out a video about the film here.

Style: IPA
Strength: 6.4%
Bitterness: 60 IBU

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Specials

Little Creatures Single Batch Rule of Three

One imagines that since the takeover of Little Creatures by Lion there are plenty of beer folks around the country keeping a beady eye or three on the trailblazing brewery for signs of a reduce in craftiness. Given recent months have seen the launch of their excellent IPA and the opening of the equally excellent venue at the new brewery in Geelong and they’re now back with another Single Batch release, those signs would seem to be few and far between. The arrival of a new Single Batch is always a cause for excitement, with the latest another to play around with beer styles. Rule of Three blends elements of an English special bitter with a Belgian dubbel then adds loads of late hops. All that results in is a brilliantly clear, copper-coloured ale that, upfront at least, is dominated by the distinctive spicy hop aromas from the large amounts of Styrian Goldings used for dry hopping. Some fruity, clove like spice notes from the Belgian yeast do poke their nose through, along with a little malt sweetness, but really it’s those lovely old world hops that dominate. It’s full-bodied and has a touch of that fruitiness in the mouth too but, just as it opens with an explosion of spicy hops, so it ends, as they come riding back into the picture to bring this big, hoppy, slightly fruity, slightly sticky English bitter to a pleasantly bitter end.

Available:

Limited kegs:
Little Creatures
Little Creatures Dining Hall
Little Creature Geelong
Bottles nationwide from March 26. Check stockists here from that date

Style: Dubbel Bitter
Strength: 5.7%
Bitterness: 38IBU

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Little Creatures Single Batch Mr Obadiah

The full effects of last year’s Lion purchase of Little Creatures will take some time to be seen. Yet, when the announcement was made last year, there were fears among beer aficionados that the Single Batch program could be something to suffer. Yet that’s not proven to be the case; indeed, both Creatures and White Rabbit continue to play around with one-off firkins and tiny, tap only experiments at the bases in Freo, Healesville and Fitzroy. The latest Single Batch to make its way nationwide is Mr Obadiah. He’s a rye porter, and he’s a cracker. In fact, Mr O is very probably the Single Batch we’ve enjoyed most at Crafty Towers since The Dreadnought. It could be put down to a weakness for hearty dark beers, but more likely it’s because it’s a damn fine beer. Based on the traditional English style, weighing in at a hefty 6.9 per cent, and brewed with malted rye for a touch of peppery spice, it’s a cracker from start to finish: it looks good in the glass, has an enticing dark chocolate, coffee and slightly spicy aroma and a full-bodied chocolate, dark caramel and coffee flavour that lingers long and soft on the palate. Time to stock up for winter…

Available:

Little Creatures
Little Creatures Dining Hall
The Australian Hotel
The Alehouse Project
Great Northern
Archive West End
Others to come (once the Creatures Beer Finder is updated!)

Style: Rye Porter
Strength: 6.9%

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Little Creatures Shepherd's Delight

They took the Aussie beer world a little by surprise with this release did Little Creatures. Bottles arrived at Crafty Towers before we even knew the was another Single Batch on the way and it seems plenty of others were unaware too. Still, following in the footsteps of the likes of the Big Dipper, Dreadnought and Quiet American, there’s always a frisson of excitement to see what the team at Freo comes up with when given free rein to have a play in the brewery. This time around, they’ve brewed a Red IPA, one into which they tell us they’ve lobbed their “most lavish hopping regime to date”. It’s a regime that has cast its net far and wide, featuring British, American, Kiwi and new Aussie varieties. The multinational approach doesn’t hit you up front, however, with the aroma defined as much by the sweet, caramel malts as anything hoppy. They go to work on the gleaming, blood orange coloured ale once in your mouth instead, particularly as it warms and allows the layers of malt and hops to come out to play. The hops also ensure that, despite the initial sweetness, it finishes pretty dry, with the distinct earthiness of what one assumes is the East Kent Goldings lingering at the end. It’s not an IPA that’ll knock you sideways, rather a well-balanced, decidedly drinkable one.

Available:

Find it here

Style: Red IPA
Strength: 6.2%
Bitterness: 50 IBU

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Little Creatures Puffing Billy

While the impact of the Lion takeover remains to be seen at Little Creatures, the Single Batches continue to appear, much to the delight of the beer-loving public. On a roll after the likes of the Big Dipper, Dreadnaught and Quiet American, here they’ve returned to Germany for inspiration (following last year’s Single Batch Marzen) with a lightly smoked Bock. The use of beechwood smoked malt is such that it’s barely detectable on the nose, where sweet malty aromas hold fort; instead, it appears more prominently in the flavour of this dark amber-coloured beer, where it goes to work with lots of earthy, spicy hops and ultimately contributes to a reasonably bitter, gently smoky finish. However, this Billy is mainly about the fulsome layers of malts, resulting in a delightfully smooth and impeccably balanced beer. But then again, it’s from Creatures so what did you expect…?

Available:

Little Creatures
Little Creatures Dining Hall
We’ll provide a link to other stockists once it’s available

Style: Smoked Bock
Strength: 6.5%
Bitterness: 33 IBU

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Little Creatures Day of the Long Shadow

Timing is everything. And there was certainly something amusing about the release of a spiced ale that’s close to double figures for alcohol content coming so close to news that Lion – not a company known for its promotion of such esoteric fare – was planning to take control of 100 per cent of Little Creatures. While their Pale Ale has continued its successful charge across the country as one of the best craft beer converters, the Single Batch series has helped keep those at the more extreme end of the craft beer market satisfied. There’s no holding back here, either, with a beer inspired by the spiced ales of Europe. Unlike many of the spiced winter warmers released by a handful of Aussie brewers, this isn’t a dark beer, rather a ruby red, rich, slightly sweet and fruity Belgian style ale with aromas and flavours that hark of Christmas time in northern Europe, of tasty treats and mulled wine. Hopping is subtle, with the focus more on the upfront spices, the rich, slick malts and warming sweet alcohol. One to share with fruit cake around a roaring fire.

Available:

Find it here

Style: Spiced Ale
Strength: 8.9%

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Little Creatures The Quiet American

It’s all go at Creatures these days. Hot on the heels of the Wet Hopped Pale Ale comes this hybrid US IPA / Belgian Trappist ale, while the Little Rabbit collaboration brew with their sister brewery at White Rabbit takes shape in Healesville. It’s “Quiet” as a nod to the monks who brew the original Trappist beers and “American”, well, because it’s packed with pungent American Cascade and Chinook hops. This blending of styles is rather popular these days it seems, with Bridge Road’s India Saison, Mad Brewers Hoppy Hefe and Mornington Peninsula’s White IPA rolling out of breweries recently, and The Quiet American is one that allows both its yin and yang to shine. The hop aromas are first to hit, with some banana-like yeasty esters in the background, while those hops are back in play in the mouth, contributing both resiny flavour and a firm bitterness alongside some sticky sweet malts, with the fruity, slightly funky Belgian character coming increasingly to the fore as it warms. Complex and interesting, as you’d imagine the lovechild of a monk and a Yank to be.

Available:

Little Creatures
Little Creatures Dining Hall
And nationwide here

Style: US IPA / Belgian Hybrid
Strength: 7.2%
Bitterness: 55 IBU

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Little Creatures Wet Hopped Pale Ale

Brewing this beer was a little like the Amazing Race for hops, as you can read about in the story we ran on it here. Little Creatures wanted to see what their flagship would taste like when brewed with freshly harvested hops instead of dried flowers, ending up putting 100kg into the hopback where usually there would be 25kg. The result is a surprisingly different beer, one that’s nailed spot on by the head brewer, in that the hops are rather conspicuous by their absence on the nose but appear with interest in the mouth; once the familiar Pale malt sweetness has passed, the hops come out to play, making for an enjoyable and interesting twist on one of Australia’s favourite beers.

Available:

Little Creatures
Little Creatures Dining Hall

Style: Wet Hopped Pale Ale

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Little Creatures Big Dipper

It reminds you of the scale of the Little Creatures audience compared to most craft brewers in Australia when you see them describe the 7.8% strength of this beer as “massive alcohol percentage” on their website. Already, hardened beer lovers are popping up claiming it’s not big enough to warrant the double IPA epithet, yet to the vast majority of Little Creatures drinkers, this will be a massively boozy concoction. Perspective, people. Anyway, we digress slightly. What of the beer itself, the second biggie in a row in the Single Batch range following the sadly foreshortened Dreadnought. Well, you can tell they’ve chucked a load of hops at it – and that they’ve gone for plenty of big aromatic varieities from the States and closer to home too: bags and bags of grapefruit-led aromas and plenty of resinous hop character in the mouth too with the malt, as much as anything, there to keep things in check and let the hops do their thang. Medium-bodied rather than the chewing-on-a-Highland-Toffee-bar experience of some IIPAs, the bitterness builds and lingers but, again, is held in check, with the slightest warmth and tingle on the lips to remind you it is nudging 8%.

Available:

Little Creatures
Slowbeer
Purvis Beer
Smith Street Cellars
Little Creatures Dining Hall
And a load more places you’ll find here

Style: Double IPA
Strength: 7.8%
Bitterness: 55IBU

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Little Creatures Dreadnought

It’s been a little while since the last Little Creatures Single Batch release – and a fair while since this one was originally conceived. The Dreadnought came about from an in-house competition, with head brewer Alex Troncoso setting his brewers and any other home brewing types within the Creatures family the task of coming up with something big and dark for a winter release. The winner was this, ramped up to a full brew length and now making its way onto taps and into bottleshops across the land. It’s certainly achieved the goal of being big and black: at 7.4% it’s quite possibly the biggest thing to come out of the brewery (and possibly one in the eye for those who’ve claimed previous Single Batch releases were too conservative). A Foreign Extra Stout that’s nigh on black in the glass with a deep brown head and a blood red tint if you care to get up real close, it’s another addition to a fine winter season of dark whoppers Down Under. It’s pretty highly hopped using the Fuggles variety, which has an earthy aroma that blends with the darker malts on the nose rather than offering a contrast as the New World hops favoured by some brewers in their big stouts this year tend to. There’s plenty of shades of malt to unravel, while the hops return in the mouth before it all wraps up with a long-lasting roasty finish.

Available:

Little Creatures
Slowbeer
Carwyn Cellars
Purvis Beer
Blackhearts & Sparrows
Purvis Beer Richmond
Speakeasy Cellars
Smith Street Cellars
Little Creatures Dining Hall
The Wheaty

Style: Foreign Extra Stout
Strength: 7.4%

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Little Creatures Single Batch Märzen

Having cast their net towards the fields of Southern England for their last Single Batch release, this time Little Creatures has taken a hop and a skip to Germany to create the classic Märzen style. Blending four malts with Czech Saaz, NZ Pacifica & US Willamette hops, they’ve created a strong lager like those originally produced in Germany in March (Märzen is the German word for March) to last through the hot summer months when brewers couldn’t brew beer due to the high amount of bacteria in the air. The Little Creatures version has been slow fermented and lagered for just over five weeks and is described as “a rich, strong lager with subtle noble hop aromas from the late Saaz additions, lots of firm bitterness on the palate, while rich malt characters wrap it all into balance, providing a full mouthfeel”.

Available:

Little Creatures Dining Hall
Slowbeer
Purvis Beer
Little Creatures
The Wheaty
Smith St Cellars
Carwyn Cellars
Blackhearts & Sparrows

Style: Märzen
Strength: 5.8%
Bitterness: 30 IBU

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Little Creatures East Kent Goldings

hey seem to like bucking the trend at Little Creatures. First their Pale (or Live as it was then) introduced the Aussie beer drinking world to US style hoppy pales. And now, while everyone else is using their limited releases to create something wild and crazy, they’re firing out rather more traditional beers under their Single Batch banner, such as the Oatmeal Stout and now this, the East Kent Goldings Ale. It’s a single hop affair, using the classic English hop that features in some of their other recipes for both bittering and aroma. Copper coloured with a small off white head like the traditional English bitters it’s based on (although carbonated for bottling unlike those you’d get from the hand pump in the UK), it’s the earthy side of the hops that really come through – a touch of rustic woodiness there too. Once they appear in the mouth, they take on a spicy character, adding a bit of zing to a bitterness that lingers longer than you might expect from just 30 IBUs.

Available:

Little Creatures Dining Hall
Little Creatures, Freo
Purvis Beer Richmond
Purvis Beer
Carwyn Cellars
Slowbeer
Blackhearts & Sparrows

Style: English Bitter
Strength: 4.5%
Bitterness: 30 IBU

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