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Crafty Pint

Your Guide to Australian Craft Beer / Wednesday 23 April 2014

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The longest-established of all Australian craft breweries, Matilda Bay was founded by Phil Sexton in West Australia back in 1984, making small batches of beer for sale in Fremantle’s Sail & Anchor pub. First off the production line was the Redback wheat beer – the first of its style made in Australia and still winning awards today.

Other styles unfamiliar to Australian palates, such as dark lager Dogbolter followed and, in the early 1990s, the brewery was purchased by Carlton and United Breweries. Founder Sexton would go on to found Little Creatures, while the backing of one of Australia’s biggest brewers provided Matilda Bay with the financial clout to reach a much wider audience.

It left its West Australian roots behind to move to the Garage Brewery in the outer Melbourne suburb of Dandenong in 2005, where under the stewardship of Brad Rogers (who has since founded Stone & Wood in Byron Bay) and now Scott Vincent, a team of brewers acts as the Foster’s group’s craft beer arm. In early 2012, the brewery moved again, to a former Cadbury factory in Port Melbourne where it both brews and welcomes customers to its Brewery Bar seven days a week.

Having outgrown its microbrewery origins, Matilda Bay appears on taps all over the country, often acting as the first contact drinkers have with craft beer. Its own range invites drinkers to embark on a journey through the world of flavoursome beers, with the likes of the hugely hopped US style Alpha Pale and other seasonals lying in wait.

Regulars

Matilda Bay Alpha Pale Ale

A serial award-winner, this is the big boy of the Matilda Bay range, a highly-hopped take on the powerful Pale Ales developed in Northwest USA. Boasting pungent fruit and citrus aromas from the use of Cascade hops, a mouthful of pale malts and a powerful wallop of bitterness, it’s a great way to experience the taste of West Coast American without splashing out on the airfare.

Style: American Pale Ale
Strength: 5.2%

Mb-alpha_bottle

Matilda Bay Beez Neez

Initially created as a Christmas gift for staff, Beez Neez soon became a permanent addition to the Matilda Bay range. A wheat beer with the addition of light amber honey in the boil, it’s clean and crisp with a gentle honey and a dry finish.

Style: Honey-infused wheat beer
Strength: 4.7%

Mat-bay-beez-neez_bottle

Matilda Bay Bohemian Pilsner

Matilda Bay’s take on the classic Czech style first created in Plzen back in the 19th century. The late addition of Saaz hops give the beer its floral and spicy aroma, which give way to a lightly fruity palate and a distinct hop bitterness.

Style: Czech Pilsner
Strength: 4.7%

Mat-bay-bo-pils_bottle

Matilda Bay Helga

The artist formerly known as Big Helga… Launched amid great fanfare late in 2009, this is Matilda Bay’s more approachable lager for those who find the Bohemian’s bitterness too confronting. Now widely available nationwide – and without the “Big” prefix – and brewed out of the Cascade Brewery in Tasmania to meet demand, it’s inspired by the traditional Oktoberfest beers made for the annual festival in Munich.

Style: Munich Lager (helles)
Strength: 4.7%

Mat-bay-helga_bottle

Matilda Bay Dogbolter

A beer that turned heads when it first rolled out of the Sail & Anchor Pub Brewery in Fremantle in 1987, the name Dogbolter was transferred two years later to a dark lager coming out of the Matilda Bay Brewery. Now part of the brewery’s Reserve range, it’s a Munich style dark lager made up of six different malts that lend it flavours of caramel, chocolate and toffee. The Germanic Hersbrucker hop gives it a light floral aroma and gentle bitterness too.

Style: Munich Dark Lager
Strength: 5.2%

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Matilda Bay Redback Original

One of the beers that started Australia down the path to where we are today, Redback was launched in the mid-80s to coincide with the Americas Cup defence. Matilda Bay reckon it’s Australia’s first craft beer – a German style hefeweizen (wheat beer) with fruit and clove aromas, it uses both wheat and barley plus Saaz and Australian Pride of Ringwood hops to create a refreshing beer that continues to win awards today, a quarter century on from its inception.

Style: Hefeweizen
Strength: 4.7%

Mat-bay-redback_bottle

Matilda Bay Fat Yak

Realising not everyone is up for the lipsmacking beast that is their Alpha Pale Ale, the Matilda Bay brewers came up with a beer that’s along the same lines, but toned down into something more approachable. It has the fruity hop aromas familiar to those who enjoy Cascade-laden American Pale Ales plus some more grassy aromas from the addition of Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand, but comes without the overpowering bitterness that accompanies the bigger ones. Like Big Helga, now produced at the Cascade Brewery in Tasmania.

Style: American Pale Ale
Strength: 4.7%

Mat-bay-fat-yak_bottle

Matilda Bay IGP - Itchy Green Pants

I.G.P. is a cloudy Australian ale from Matilda Bay. According to the brewers: “The beer displays a fruity aromatic, complemented by an initial maltiness producing a creamy mouth feel. It’s well balanced on the palate with late hopped Galaxy & Summer Saaz resulting in a zesty clean finish. The Galaxy hops provide a fruity note while summer hops (a local Saaz variety) add spicy and peppery notes. A dose of the Matilda Bay yeast follows and the brewers allow the ale time to mature, resulting in a refreshing, naturally cloudy, cleansing ale.” They reckon it goes nicely with marinated BBQ meats, and “even the good old sausage sanga with chutney” as well as being a great match with light Asian dishes containing chilli and lime.

Style: Australian Ale

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Matilda Bay Minimum Chips

Always a sucker for pub snacks, Mrs Pint ordered some pork scratchings recently. It seemed an unnecessarily unhealthy move. Until, that is, the first mouthful of post-pork scratching beer was consumed and brought with it that unmistakable sensation that can only be your body telling you that “Fat + Salt + Beer = Win”. Presumably this is what led Matilda Bay to name its latest release “Minimum Chips”, given a lager paired with said food should set off a similar (if not quite as porcine-enhanced) response. Well, that and the hope that every time someone spots “Minimum Chips” on a takeaway menu they’ll undergo a Pavlovian response and find themselves knocking the caps off a six-pack of the lager before they realise what’s happening. At a time when plenty of breweries in Oz are releasing ever more adventurous beers – something Matilda Bay isn’t averse to if you check out the taps at their Port Melbourne base – the decision to follow Itchy Green Pants with an equally approachable lager suggests they’re heading in a different direction. As for the beer, it’s a golden lager that is indeed very golden – glisteningly so in the glass – and predominantly malt-led. The hops are subtle, the bitterness soft, the desired outcome that drinkers will pick it as a smashable BBQ accompaniment.

Style: Lager
Strength: 4.7%

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Matilda Bay Dirty Granny

Released in the midst of Australia’s burgeoning love affair with cider, the Dirty Granny is an all-apple, no added sugar affair that’s gone on to pick up more than its fair share of gongs. According to the brewery: “It has a full rich flavour combined with a perfect balance of sweetness and acidity, and the crisp bite of whole apples. There is certain amount of astringency in the aftertaste. It is crafted carefully so as to retain as much flavour and palate length as possible but also maintaining the refreshment factor.” They recommend accompanying it with goat’s cheese or camembert.

Style: Apple Cider
Strength: 5.5%

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Specials

Matilda Bay 1947 & Heat Wave

They’ve got a couple of new limited releases pouring at the Matilda Bay brewery bar in Port Melbourne and one of them is a special commemorative beer. Not commemorating the 30th anniversary of the brewery or anything, but the 66th birthday of one of the stalwarts of the Aussie craft beer industry. Brewer and all round top bloke Neil Whittorn was born in 1947, thus 1947 is their tribute to him (hence it’s 6.6% too, with 66% seeming a stretch too far). It’s a strong Golden Ale with a sweet, spicy and faintly tropical aroma, some sweet malts upfront and then a herbal dryness and lingering finish that, late on, reminds us a little of a Chardonnay. Pouring alongside it until the kegs run dry is Heat Wave, an experimental, developmental beer that is being loosely termed as a “Summer Ale” on the grounds that it is an ale and it is summer. Brewed with an American ale yeast, plus wheat and oats to give it some extra body, it has some distinct fruity esters and flavours as well as a nice, creamy sweet malt mouthfeel and some lingering lemony citrus flavours too. One day, one or both may venture outside the brewery bar, but for now that’s the only place you will find them.

Available:

Matilda Bay

Style: Strong Golden Ale / Summer Ale
Strength: 6.6% / 4.7%

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McCrackens Ale

It’s rare indeed that we feature anything from CUB, other than beers from their Matilda Bay range, on The Crafty Pint. At the same time, it’s rare that they put out limited releases or that such releases turn up on taps at some of the venues where this one has. But, as part of their occasional ventures into the company’s brewing past, they’ve reinvigorated the McCrackens brand. McCrackens was one of the original breweries that united to form what is now Carlton & United Brewery and this beer is a rather tasty, well balanced amber ale. It’s the first time in ten years that McCrackens has been dusted down, on that occasion to mark the refurbishment of Young & Jackson’s, and follows the likes of the Ballarat Bitter and Abbots Lager releases in 2011. The McCrackens release is accompanied by a new run of Richmond Lager too, with CUB telling us they are “a celebration of the brands and of CUB’s history.”

Available:

The Fox, Collingwood
Prahran Hotel
The Post Office, Coburg
Naked For Satan
Great Northern
The Boat Builders Yard
Union Club Hotel
Lord Newry Hotel
Beer DeLuxe Hawthorn
Three Below
Courthouse Hotel
Cornish Arms Hotel
Peacock Inn Hotel
Victoria Hotel
Boney

Style: Amber Ale
Strength: 4.5%

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Matilda Bay Duke Bramling the Third

They’re keeping the brewers busy at Matilda Bay’s Port Melbourne base, with a steady stream of limited run releases hitting taps there and some, like the Ruby Tuesday and Little Ripper, making a break from the brewery and finding temporary homes elsewhere. For now, the latest is tied to the brewery bar. He’s Duke Bramling the Third, an India Pale Ale that we’ll stick our neck out and say is of the English variety.* According to the brewers, it’s: “Dark amber in colour with a copper hue. Earthy, spicy and blackcurrant aromas follow through to a firm malty palate balanced by a lingering bitterness.”

It’s not the only limited release out from the CUB stable either. Matilda Bay’s parent company has brought back one of its heritage labels, McCrackens, in the form of a rather tasty amber ale that’s been pouring at the likes of the Great Northern and Young & Jackson.

*One might suggest that in the long history of “neck sticking out”, this is one of the more timid efforts given the beer is called the very British “Duke”, features a British hop variety and has characteristics typical of British IPAs. But, hey, it’s Friday and we’re feeling Bolshy…

Available:

Matilda Bay

Style: IPA
Strength: 6.3%
Bitterness: 53 IBU

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Matilda Bay Ruby Tuesday and Little Ripper

The Crafty Pint almost got into a fight with a fellow crowd surfer at a Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine gig for bagging The Rolling Stones for going after the shortlived indie pop punk grebos for using the line “Goodbye Ruby Tuesday. Come home, you silly cow. We’ve baked a cake and your friends are waiting.” in their excellent single After The Watershed. One assumes Mick’s lawyers won’t be so fussed about the appropriation of the name for a beer, although you never know with that Thatcher-worshipping loon…

Sweaty reminiscences aside, the beer is one of two new limited releases from the Port Melbourne based brewery. It’s an Amber Ale that we’re told is “crafted with Pride of Ringwood and Hallertau Hersbrucker hops and four specialty malts – Carared, Melanoidim, Caramunich (crystal) and wheat” and “boasts flavours of creamy toffee-apple that linger on the front palate”. Its partner in crime, the Little Ripper, is a “sparkling lager” to add to the steady stream of lagers hitting taps at Matilda Bay. This one is “crafted with the lusciously exotic Pacifica hop,” and “has a refreshing, fruit aroma that leaves the palate dry, crisp and thirsty for more!” As well as appearing on tap at the brewery bar, they’ll be hitting taps across the country, which is something we’re pleased to see as every time we’ve spoken to anyone at Matilda Bay over the past year we’ve been like a broken record asking them to send these limited releases beyond Bertie Street.

Available:

Matilda Bay
Then taps nationally where you find Matilda Bay beers

Style: Amber Ale & Sparkling Lager
Strength: Both 4.7%

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Matilda Bay / Mountain Goat / Moon Dog Abbey Collaby 2013

The Abbey Collaby has been through many iterations since first being conceived by one of Good Beer Week’s founders back in 2011. It’s always been a collaboration between three brewers sort of geographically linked as being in Abbotsford (we say sort of as CUB is, although its craft beer arm Matilda Bay isn’t, while Mountain Goat is technically in Richmond) and has always offered up something different, from the waffles in the first beer to the multiple different spellings for the project: Abbey Collabey, Abbey Collabby, Abbotsford Collabbotsford.

This year the brew day moved from Mountain Goat to Matilda Bay and, for the first time, the beer has been packaged. The labels are worthy of close inspection with some neat Photoshopping bringing together the breweries and brewers in more ways than one, while inside there’s a tale to be told too. The beer was conceived as an India Red Rye Rauch Ale, but ended up an India Red Rye Rauch Rye-less Ale. In other words, it’s been loaded with an India Pale Ale level of Amarillo hops, is red (really, really, glisteningly red) and has a faint touch of smoke from the use of some smoked malt. It is also an ale. The rye / rye-less is where things get a little muddled.

On brew day, they discovered that there was no rye malt at Matilda Bay, so Goat head brewer Dave Bonighton scraped around and found a handful that he brought along to throw in the mix; not enough to make any discernable difference, but some nonetheless, hence rye and ryeless. The result is a beer that might not have the complexity of previous Abbey Collabies but is perhaps the most drinkable of them all, a toffee-caramel led beer that’s balanced by plenty of hop bitterness and goes down just right with this sweet-toothed drinker. Wholesale proceeds go to the Collingwood’s Children’s Farm too.

Available:

Mountain Goat
Matilda Bay
Slowbeer
Others TBC

Style: Smoked India Red Ale
Strength: 7.1%
Bitterness: 55.6 IBU

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Matilda Bay Pebbles

They’ve been keeping themselves busy at Matilda Bay with limited release brews in recent months. The Port Melbourne brewery was the site of the second Women of Beer brew (for Hildegaarde) and recently welcomed Mountain Goat and Moon Dog into the house for Abbey Collabby III (a Rye Rauch Red Ryeless IPA or something). Now, pretty much at the same time as the Barking Duck has returned, they’ve added Pebbles to the tap lineup too. Called a Strong Ale although featuring a lager yeast fermented at a cool temperature, it’s named after one of head brewer Scott Vincent’s first brewers, Pebbles, who recently left the company. The beer made in his honour is a 100 per cent Nelson Sauvin affair, with the Kiwi hop used at every stage from bittering right through to dry-hopping. As such, its unmistakeable fingerprints are all over it from the kiwi fruit and lychee aromas to the tropical fruit flavours. For a seven per cent plus beer, it’s pretty delicate and glows in the glass as if it’s been plugged in at the mains, with the malt sweetness balanced by a distinctive bitter finish. Dangerously drinkable, it’s another we’d love to see them push beyond the brewery bay; here’s hoping they can find a way around the red tape…

Available:

Matilda Bay
Tap and growler fills

Style: Strong Ale
Strength: 7.4%
Bitterness: 45 IBU

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Matilda Bay Barking Duck

At risk of being reprimanded by some brewer or other (which has happened when we’ve made “this was the first….” statements on here before), it’s our understanding that the Barking Duck from Matilda Bay was Australia’s first commercially released take on the saison style. Brewed in the days when Brad Rogers (now head brewer / co-owner of Stone & Wood) was at the helm, it gained a cult following before being retired a fair few years ago. The only time we’d been able to sample any was from a bottle that had been kept well beyond it’s best before date in cold storage at the brewery – until now. The beer has been brought back out of retirement and is pouring from a fermenter at the brewery bar in Port Melbourne. When we sampled it, it was a very cloudy light straw colour and offering up heaps of fruity, spicy aromas, suggesting a few spices have been added to complement those that come from the two strains of farmhouse yeast that have been used. The result is a beer that’s as reminiscent of a witbier as a saison, with the initial zest and creamy mouthfeel retreating to leave a very dry, lingering finish.

Available:

Matilda Bay
Tap and growler fills

Style: Saison
Strength: 5.5%
Bitterness: 22 IBU

Matilda-bay-barking-duck_bottle

Matilda Bay Red Revolution

So there we were: reading an article on the success of a number of South America’s left-leaning governments in cleaning up the mess created by their neo-liberal predecessors, suggesting there is an alternative to the options hammered home relentlessly by the conservative-controlled Western media, when news arrived of a new beer from Matilda Bay called Red Revolution. Oh, sorry… As Bill Hicks would say: “Wrong meeting.” Um, still, a Revolution from one of the big boys – what a tantalising thought… Now, whether this means everyone from the brewers at their Port Melbourne base to the powers-that-be in London have started parading around in Che berets, Guy Fawkes masks and smoking Fidel cigars or whether they came up with a red lager and realised the words “red” and “revolution” sounded nice together we’re not sure. What we do know (cos they told us) is that Red Revolution is a beefy red lager (not the rebirth of their long-retired Rooftop Red) brewed with Galaxy and Hallertau Hersbrucker hops with “aromas of tropical stone fruit and paw paw” and a “clean lingering malt sweetness balanced by residual hop bitterness”. It’s also being served unpasteurised and unfiltered and is only available at the brewery on tap and to take home in growlers. Vive la Red Lager! UPDATE The name was coined after an inspirational speech by senior brewer and all round top guy Neil Whittorn at Ballarat Beer Festival.

Available:

Matilda Bay

Style: Red Lager
Strength: 5.2%
Bitterness: 40 IBU

Mat-bay-logo-special_bottle

Matilda Bay Moose on the Loose

If you judged them by the new beers that have hit taps and shelves in the past year – Itchy Green Pants and Minimum Chips – you’d think Matilda Bay was focusing solely on the very entry level end of what is loosely termed craft beer. But at their home in Port Melbourne they’ve been having a bit of fun with the taps, with beers including a Black Saison and a Double Stout appearing alongside unfiltered versions of their older beers. Add to that the Women of Beer Hildegarde brewed there and the forthcoming Abbey Collabbey III for Good Beer Week and it seems there’s plenty to keep the brewing team – and the growing number of visitors to the brewery now it’s expanded its drinking and dining space – entertained, including the latest release, Moose on the Loose. Debuted at the Ballarat Beer Festival, it’s an American Brown Ale featuring a hefty dollop of American Cascade hops (added throughout the boil, in the whirlpool and dry hopped for those who like to know such things). The result is a deeply dark brown affair boasting a big citrusy aroma and plenty of hop flavour too that relents to allow some dark cocoa malt through at the end. The bitterness lingers, but does so softly, in a beer that we’d love to see released more widely, but which will only be pouring (and filling growlers) at the brewery bar itself.

Available:

Matilda Bay

Style: American Brown Ale
Strength: 6.0%
Bitterness: 47 IBU

Moose-on-the-loose_bottle

Women of Beer Hildegarde

For their second collaborative brew (this time with added Woman), the Women of Beer again looked to history for inspiration. First time up their beer was named after Ninkasi, the ancient Sumerian goddess of beer; here the name comes from Hildegard von Bingen: nun, scribe, composer and feminist credited with being the first to author the preservative power of hops in beer. Not that hops are the primary characteristic in the beer, a French farmhouse ale based on the Biere de Garde style that had French oak chips added in the fermenter. And it’s the oak that really stands out – soft yet prominent – giving the beer more than a passing resemblance to a wooded Chardonnay. There’s malt sweetness and a little spiciness in there too in another elegant and off centre release from the ladies. The beer was made possible with ingredients supplied by Bintani, Cryer Malt and Grain & Grape. Labels were supplied by Pemara. You can read more on the beer here.

Available:

Kegs
Matilda Bay
Beer DeLuxe
Bar None / East Of Everything
Spotted Mallard
The Local Taphouse St Kilda
Courthouse Hotel
The Alehouse Project
The Local Taphouse Darlo
Beer DeLuxe
Norfolk Hotel WA
The Wheaty
Bottles
Penny Blue
Junction Beer Hall
Odyssey Tavern
Swords
Prince Wine & Spirits Essendon
Randalls Geelong
Park Hotel Werribee
Rockwell and Sons
Bishop of Ostia
Purvis Beer Richmond
Purvis Cellars
Blackhearts & Sparrows
Malt and Vine
Slowbeer
McCoppins
Beer Cartel
Oak Barrel NSW
Camperdown Cellars NSW
Leura Cellars NSW
Warners at the Bay
Freo Doctor WA
Cellarbrations at Carlisle
Clancy’s Fish Pub Fremantle

Style: Oaked Biere de Garde
Strength: 6.7%

Women-of-beer-hildegarde_bottle

Matilda Bay Long Shot

NO LONGER AVAILABLE The result of a collaboration between Matilda Bay’s head brewer Scott Vincent and leading Melbourne coffee merchant Toby Smith, of Toby’s Estate, this coffee-infused dark ale is the brewery’s 2010 winter seasonal. Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffee beans were used to make the infusion, which was added to the tanks post-boil. As Crafty wrote upon being given a pre-release taste, the result is a “cocoa-cum-mocha aroma as the chocolate notes of the malts come through with a touch of vanilla to balance the coffee. It’s goodbye stout-like roasts, hello dark ale richness, with the coffee infusion now just that: an infusion that adds to the ale base without overpowering it, making for a more approachable finished product.”

Available:

Dan Murphy’s exclusive

Style: Coffee-infused Dark Ale
Strength: 6%

Longshot_bottle