One of the brave few fighting the craft beer cause in Victoria’s west, Camperdown’s Red Duck is also responsible for some of the state’s boldest beers. It was founded in a converted dairy in the grounds of Purrumbete Homestead but now operates from a brewery in Ballarat, having made the move late in 2011. Using tanks once named after characters in Kath and Kim but now bearing those of the world’s leading footballers, brewer Scott Wilson-Browne takes a no-holds-barred approach, specialising in full strength and Imperial versions of predominantly traditional British and European ales.
Opened in 2005 by Scott and wife Vanessa after they left Melbourne for a change of pace, and named after the Shelducks that inhabit nearby Lake Purrumbete, it was for a while the only brewery between Geelong and Adelaide. Using a self-designed system, the focus is on quality over quantity: many of the beers in the Red Duck range are only produced in limited 500l batches, making them hard to find, but well worth the effort.
In late 2009, they opened a Provedore in Camperdown’s main street that offered their beers on tap and in bottle as well as a range of gourmet goods sourced from the finest local producers. Then, following the move to Ballarat and an ever-increasing production schedule, they decided to sell up in October 2013 to focus on beer and brewing.
That said, you can call into the cellar door in Ballarat to check out their current brewing setup, pick up bottles from a range that often tops 30 beers, have a chat to the brewing team and discover just what madcap experiments they’ve got bubbling away.
Red Duck Brewery Beers
- Red Duck Half Wit & Geist
- Red Duck Sabre Tooth & Orange Mosaic
- Red Duck Gruitest
- Red Duck Licky
- Red Duck Wooly Nelson
- Red Duck Jupiter
- Red Duck The Grizzly
- Red Duck Shy Blond
- Red Duck Dude, Where's My Cherry?
- Red Duck Topaz
- Red Duck The Tiger
- Red Duck Sexy Thing
- Red Duck Bell Hop
- Red Duck / Kissmeyer Rebellion
- Red Duck Gnaume
- Red Duck Bumble Bee
- Red Duck Smells Like A Pony
- Red Duck Gruiter
- Red Duck Long Shot
- Red Duck Ra #2
- Red Duck The Ox 2012
- Red Duck Ragnarok
- Red Duck Hop Bach
- Red Duck Golden Dragon
- Red Duck Canute the Gruit
- Red Duck Belgian Vanilla Porter
- Red Duck Queen Bee
- Red Duck The Ox (2011)
- Red Duck White Garden
- Red Duck Burton
- Red Duck Red Admiral
- Red Duck Black Heart
- Red Duck Loch Ness
- Red Duck Ugly Duckling
- Red Duck The Ox 2010
Red Duck Pale Ale
An English style Pale, this is the most approachable of Red Duck’s regular range and is an easy drinking, thirst quenching ale that combines a touch of specialty malt and malted wheat with enough hops to ensure a gently bitter finish. It’s their biggest seller too.
Style: English Pale Ale
Red Duck Amber Ale
Scott’s take on the classic UK pub ale, this Amber uses a select blend of malts and low hopping levels using traditional British hops that don’t distract from the beer’s key characteristics – the hints of caramel and toffee that come from the malts. As with the British way, it’s a beer that benefits from being drunk at a slightly warmer temperature.
Style: Amber Ale
Red Duck Porter
This dark style of beer first came to popularity in London back in the 18th century, with the city’s river and street porters falling for its rich, deep flavours. The Red Duck version is a full-bodied beer, full of complexity due to a wide range of different specialty malts used in the brew, including roast barley, which can lend rich coffee like characteristic. Also lurking within this 6.4% beer are hints of chocolate, toffee, molasses, treacle and liquorice.
Red Duck Bengal IPA
IPAs, or India Pale Ales, date from the time of the British Empire when, to ensure beer being sent to the troops on the Sub-Continent didn’t spoil during its long sea journey, brewers boosted the hop and alcohol content to act as preservatives. The Bengal is a traditional recreation of the style given a modern twist with the addition of generous amounts of Centennial and Cascade hops.
Style: English IPA
Red Duck Overland
This Bright Ale is a light and refreshing beer, crisp and clean on the palate with hints of honey and light caramel on the palate and a subtly enticing citrus and melon aroma. Designed after Scott had completed the Overland Track in Tasmania with friends to be the ideal beer you’d want once you’d taken that final step.
Style: Bright Ale
Red Duck Pale Rider
Taking its name from the Clint Eastwood classic is the latest release from Red Duck. After playing with Egyptian bread beers, rhubarb, raspberries, honey and beasts from the deep, it’s a return to something approaching sanity for the brewery, an American inspired pale ale with highly hoppy aromatics and bitterness. It’s going to be a member of Red Duck’s permanent range in bottles but, if you’re quick, you might be able to get your hands on it in keg form, with the only three 20l kegs released being tapped at Josie Bones on March 18.
Style: US Pale Ale
Bitterness: 42 IBU
Red Duck Hoppy Amber
Quite what Red Duck are going to do for a mixed six now they’ve added this, a seventh beer, to their regular lineup, who knows? Perhaps there needs to be a brewer’s half dozen added to the baker’s dozen. In the tradition of a series of British TV ads that had an uncanny ability to stick in one’s head – “Ronseal: It does exactly what it says on the tin!” – here’s a beer that does exactly what it says on the bottle, ie it’s hoppy and it’s amber in colour. To be slightly more specific, the brewer describes it as having “rich, hoppy aromas, moderately high bitterness with rich malt.”
Style: Amber Ale
Bitterness: 38 IBU
Red Duck 1851
For all the oddities and experiments that make their way from Red Duck’s Ballarat brewery – braggots, sours, spiced beers and so on – they do release a fair few “normal” beers too. In fact, of all the Red Duck beers we laid our lips on in 2013, one of the best was Topaz, a simple, single hop pale ale that was just exactly as such a beer should be. Along the same lines was Wooly Nelson, a single hop ale that used NZ’s Nelson Sauvin. It’s the latter of these that is now taking up residence in 1851, a new addition to the brewery’s permanent range (as part of a realigning of the permanent range and streamlining of limited releases). It’s a golden ale lifted by the hop’s distinct aroma and named, presumably, after the year in which gold was first discovered in Ballarat.
Style: Golden Ale
Red Duck Half Wit & Geist
The new ideas and style mashing continues to come from Red Duck with two new beers in time for summer that register low on the ABV count. The Half Wit is ostensibly a Belgian witbier, brewed with half wheat and half barley. We’re told it’s a “pale, white, slightly cloudy weisse” and to look out for “soft grapefruit and white spicy notes”. The Geist sees the brewery combine elements of the German gose style, generally tart and salty, with another German style, the Berliner Weisse, usually a softly soured style. Brewer Scott Wilson-Browne describes it as “the Half Wit’s ghost” and tells us they added extra salt and soured it a little, ending with “notes of white spices, very pale, but with a tangy full bodied palate.”
Style: Belgian Wit and Gose / Berliner Weisse
Strength: 3.4% & 3.2%
Red Duck Sabre Tooth & Orange Mosaic
When the 24 breweries and brewing companies gathered for the first Good Beer Showcase this October, a few brought new beers or created twists on old ones. None went quite as far as Red Duck, however, but then again it’s rare that anyone does. Six very recent or not yet released beers were unveiled – along with a new livery that’s evolution rather than revolution – including these two. The Sabre Tooth is the latest big, hoppy beer from the Ballarat brewery (remember last year’s Hop Bach with Kissmeyer featuring 26 different hops, for example). It’s brewed with three of the American “C” hops – Centennial, Chinook and Columbus – that give it a big, fruity aroma and a backend kick and a half. It’s light on its feet too, though, with a malt bill that refrains from getting too chewy, instead allowing the hops to take centre stage.
The other newcomer is a keg only release and is a beer that made its debut at this year’s GABS festival in Melbourne in May. It’s a Belgian style wit brewed with orange peel and flesh additions and also with new US hop variety Mosaic that anyone who’s experienced it in a single hop beer, such as Mornington’s, will know to be one orangey, even mandarin-y, customer itself.
Style: Imperial IPA & Belgian Wit
Strength: 9.0% & 4.5%
Red Duck Gruitest
A couple of years back, Red Duck’s brewer made one of his regular ventures back in time to create a beer with its origins in Medieval, pre-hop Britain. Canute the Gruit featured homemade nettle juice, deliberately scorched grains and various other unusual ingredients to create a beer that was smokey, sour and odd, but over time developed into something really rather good. He followed it up with Gruiter, described as a “Renaissance” take on the style that lacked the complexity of the former but made up for it with possibly the most lip-puckering intensity of any beer released in Oz last year. Now the superlative trilogy is completed by Gruitest, a “modern gruit ale”. If you’re not sure what a modern gruit ale is, don’t worry, we’ve no idea. Thankfully brewer Scott is on hand to at least tell us what’s gone into it. Namely: “yarrow, wormwood, mugwort, dandelion leaf, sweet dried orange peel, lemon balm, elderflowers, hibiscus flowers and hawthorn berries.” If it sounds like something you’d stumble upon in a tent in the Green Fields of Glastonbury circa 1994, it probably is, but with the shrooms replaced by booze. He tells us it “has a wonderful strong malt character, balanced by soft herbal and floral aromatics … and a slight natural tartness, which occured naturally from the gruit additions.” Intriguing…
Style: Golden Gruit
Red Duck Licky
We’ve been bouncing emails back and forth with Red Duck’s brewer this week and he’s got the usual array of fun stuff lined up for release over the coming months. Pretty much anything you can think of and he’ll be doing it to one style of beer or another and sticking it in a bottle soon enough. The first of the latest batch of limited run releases is Licky. It’s a dark lager with a few extra special additions: all natural, dried liquorice root, sarsaparilla root and aniseed myrtle. We’ve seen such things in big stouts in the past but not necessarily in lagers.
Also hitting shelves at the same time is a fresh batch of the brewery’s popular Golden Dragon. Here’s what we’ve had to say about it in the past.
Style: Spiced Dark Lager
Red Duck Wooly Nelson
It seems we’re in the middle of another of Red Duck’s regular avalanches of new beer releases, with this one a single hop beer utilising the popular Nelson Sauvin. Presumably the “wooly” refers to the fact that it’s a Kiwi hop rather than any weird sensation experienced when supping the beer. If it’s anything like their last single hop release, the Topaz, which we found to be a simple beer delivered well, then it should prove a lovely showcase for one of the most distinctive and powerful aroma hops around. According to brewer Scott Wilson-Browne, expect a beer that is “crisp, refreshing, with hoppy aromas and balanced bitterness”.
Style: Pale Ale
Red Duck Jupiter
WE have a sneaky suspicion that Ballarat brewery Red Duck is after setting some kind of record this year by attempting to release the most beers commercially in one year in Australia. They’ll have a challenge on their hands given the number pumped out by Queensland’s Bacchus on their multi-brewhouse setup. But if you keep it confined to bottle releases, surely Red Duck has it hands down. The Jupiter is one of the more esoteric releases from Red Duck, even by their standards. It’s a strong porter that’s had juniper berries and Port added before being aged in a former Port Ex-port barrel for six months. We’re told it possesses “amazing liqueur like characters” is “dark, oaky, vinous, silky, rich, porty, smooth as silk and very lightly carbonated.” Seems someone likes their adjectives as much as adding unusual ingredients to beer…
Awards: [Slowbeer](/beer/bottleshop/slowbeer/) [Purvis Cellars](/beer/bottleshop/purvis-beer/) [McCoppins](/beer/bottleshop/mccoppins/) Press Cellars [Blackhearts & Sparrows](/beer/bottleshop/blackhearts-sparrows/) Swords Select Olinda Cellars
Style: Barrel-aged Porter
Red Duck The Grizzly
When Red Duck’s Ugly Duckling first appeared, people scratched their heads: “A braggot? What’s that?” It was Australia’s first commercially released braggot, a beer style with origins in Medieval Britain that is a blend of a mead and a strong ale. The Ugly Duckling was a very high ABV and unusual beer, but one that has ended up heralding a series of braggots from the Ballarat brewer, from those featuring buckwheat to highly honeyed versions. The Grizzly is, by our reckoning, the fourth variant and features a blend of a new batch of mead with some of the yet-to-be released Blue Monday, a Belgian tripel that the ever-reserved brewer Scott Wilson-Browne describes as “one of the best beers we’ve ever made”. The Big Belgian Braggot tips the scales well over 10 per cent and elicited this description from Scott: “Amazing. Balanced, yes. Forgettable? No!” Expect honey and funky Belgian esters.
Style: Belgian Braggot
Red Duck Shy Blond
The Crafty Pint belatedly made it out to Red Duck’s current haunt in Ballarat recently (they moved from their original home in Purrumbete late in 2011). There, dotted around the warehouse alongside the tanks named after the world’s leading footballers and pallets of beer were all manner of barrels and experiments. Within just a few minutes it was becoming tricky to keep up with Scott Wilson-Browne’s increasingly obscure journeys into beer, with the latest theme (if there is such a thing) being to take beers that were somewhat unusual in the first place and creating ever more weird and wonderful variations on them; look out for two more takes on Ra, his Egyptian hop-less bread beer coming soon… The latest beer to escape the madhouse is the punsome Shy Blond, a Chai spiced Belgian Blond. Using a strong Belgian ale as the backbone, Scott has gone to work with cinnamon, cloves, aniseed, ginger, fennel, cardamon, black pepper, tea and a touch of honey. Brewer’s note: Does not contain any real blondes.
Style: Spiced Belgian Blonde
Red Duck Dude, Where's My Cherry?
We’d imagine there are plenty out there who have become rather concerned for the well-being of Red Duck brewer Scott Wilson-Browne in recent weeks. Having released seemingly three new beers a day for a period last year, there’s been radio silence recently. We’re delighted to report that all is well, however, with the first limited release beer from the Ballarat brewery winging its way to shelves right now. Dude, Where’s My Cherry? is described as something of a sister to the brewery’s White Garden although to us it seems a little more straightforward. Whereas the White Garden had a degree of tartness to it, this is a more simple fruity wheat beer, with the addition of Montmorency cherries adding a touch of pink to the colour and a little cherry fruitiness to the base beer. Light, refreshing and ideal for this extended Victorian summer, it heralds what promises to be another rash of releases from Red Duck. We chatted with Scott at the opening weekend of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival and his increasingly madcap journey down the rabbit hole of beer is showing no sign of letting up. Quite the opposite in fact…
Style: Fruit Wheat Beer
Red Duck Topaz
Another day, another dollar. Or, in this case, another Red Duck beer. Latest cab off the rank is another that falls inside their bulging collection of strong pale ales as the Ballarat brewery continues what could be cast as a hop series of sorts. Inspiration for this single hop beer, which uses the Aussie hop Topaz, came about when brewing Hop Bach with Anders Kissmeyer earlier in the year. Among the 25 hops that went into that beer was this, a variety that has found a new lease of life as an aroma / flavour variety in the past year or two. It’s a variety with a huge alpha acid level (in other words it can add tonnes of bitterness to a beer) so has only been added very late to the brew (to try and maximise aroma and flavour and minimise bitterness – here endeth today’s technical lesson). According to brewer Scott Wilson-Browne, there’s still a fair amount of perceived bitterness in a beer that “has moderate malt characters, and the hops remind you of some classic English varieties, in particular East Kent Goldings, with soft earthy notes, long grass, and hot breezy afternoons lying under a shady tree…”
Style: Strong Pale Ale
Bitterness: 40 IBU
Red Duck The Tiger
It looks like we got things a little out of whack with Red Duck recently. Turns out The Tiger was released when we said the Bell Hop was and vice-versa. But given the brewery is releasing 277 new beers every hour for the duration of 2012, it’s a forgivable mistake. Anyhoo, for those interested in knocking back a Tiger, it’s another nod to the Old Country from Red Duck: a strong pale ale inspired by those of the British Empire. The brewer says it has “strong malt and alcohol notes, soft hopping from Stella in bittering and Northern Brewer for aroma hops”. Given the beer was conceived with India in mind, they also reckon it’s the perfect accompaniment for curry, from a Rogan Josh to a fiery Punjabi, apparently.
Style: Strong Pale Ale
Red Duck Sexy Thing
Journeys in Mother Pint’s car when a child were rarely blessed with anything remotely approaching decent music. Her favourite musician – the result, one assumes, of meeting him when she was 13 and he was a young, untainted-by-Saviour’s Day-and-Wimbledon pop star – was Cliff Richard. She had a soft spot for Chris de Burgh too. You get the idea. Thankfully, there was a period in which she left Hot Chocolate’s Greatest Hits on rotation in the tape player, providing a welcome respite from the aforementioned horrors and BBC Radio 2’s subliminal attempts to get you to make like a stressed out student and stick a couple of sharpened pencils up your nose. Which brings us to Red Duck’s Sexy Thing, named presumably after the Hot Chocolate hit of the same name, which is an ale laced with chocolate and chilli. The idea came from the brewery’s dabble with chocolate in the Long Shot Porter and chilli in the Beer Here collaboration Ragnarok. The result is, according to brewer Scott Wilson-Browne, is “a hot, wet, lingering, passionate affair”. He adds, helpfully, that “If you see anything cloudy in your beer, apart from yeast, it’s chocolate! Or maybe it’s just sex in a bottle…” Delightful.
Style: Hot Chocolate Ale
Red Duck Bell Hop
Apparently Red Duck promised that they’d never brew a black IPA – too much bitterness coming from two directions, they reckon. However, they’ve decided to offer up something with a generous helping of hops and a fair touch of the dark stuff too with the Bell Hop. Described as a “mildly hoppy, dark brown ale” it features a blend of eight well known hops – Columbus, Chinook, Simcoe, Willamette, Cluster, Galaxy, Amarillo and Cascade. And apparently, they’re considering a double Bell Hop in the future – the Concierge, perhaps – which may or may not look like a black IPA after all.
Style: American Porter
Red Duck / Kissmeyer Rebellion
The third and final collaboration between Red Duck and Danish brewer Anders Kissmeyer from when he visited Australia earlier in the year is a strong pale ale. Not as strong as the 25-hop-variety Hop Bach they composed together but a solid 7 per cent nonetheless. According to the brewer it’s “an ale that promises a rich reward, with deep golden leads, mild hops, strong malt aromas and a well balanced, full flavoured payload.” Just one batch was brewed, meaning there are just 650 wax-sealed, swing top bottles in existence then it’s gone. To read about Red Duck’s approach to naming beers, head here.
Style: Strong Pale Ale
Red Duck Gnaume
In a recent piece for the site, we asked Red Duck founder Scott Wilson-Browne for the favourite of all the names he’d given his beers over the years. This was the one he picked. When we suggested it was something to do with Gaume (a place in Belgium) and gnomes, it seemed we were on the right track. There’s something to do with “small interesting creatures” too. The best way to solve the puzzle might be to get your hands on one of the beers while you set the cogs a-whirring. It’s the second of the beers Scott brewed with visiting Dane Anders Kissmeyer back in March (the other being the 25-hop-varieties Hop Bach) and is their take on the Belgian Lambic style (sort of), brewed with a whole bunch of yeast strains, some sugars, and a pair of fermentations. The result is a light, cloudy beer that’s subtly fruity, a little tart, a wee bit spicy and finishes refreshingly dry. Another oddball to add to the brewery’s rather large collection of oddballs and one that the brewer loves so much he’ll be back for more.
Style: Belgian Lambic Golden Ale
Red Duck Bumble Bee
Red Duck’s entry for this year’s Great Australasian Beer Spectapular makes a reappearance in bottled form, having landed a spot in the People’s Choice top ten. Continuing Scott’s penchant for brewing with honey (a quick flick through the mental rolodex brings up a honey porter and three braggots with honey – there could be others), this is a honey amber ale, which in this case means there are some soft, nutty malts at play with the honey. It’s the brewery’s first single hop beer, with said hop being Bramling Cross from the UK and adding some fruity, floral aromas.
Style: Honey Amber Ale
Red Duck Smells Like A Pony
The third braggot to come from the Ballarat brewery – braggots being a Medieval style of strong alcoholic drink that are a blend of strong ale and mead. This one wears its heart on its sleeve (or something like that) with the name an indication that it smells a little pony like. Or, as the brewer’s notes say, the buckwheat honey lends it a “curiously aromatic, pony like, leathery aromatic”. That said, the sweeter side of the honey seemed more prominent to The Crafty Pint’s palate, resulting in a full-bodied aperitif of a beer that is more approachable, if not as crackpot, as Red Duck’s first one, the Ugly Duckling released in 2010.
Red Duck Gruiter
Even by the brewery’s standards, Red Duck’s Canute the Gruit was a weird one. A hopless beer designed to be like the gruit beers of Medieval days, it featured homemade nettle goo and hawthorn berry juice as well as some deliberately scorched oats in the kettle. It was a beer we found beyond challenging when it was young but which developed into a really exciting smokey sour beer with age. The Gruiter is the follow up, designed to be how a beer might have been around Renaissance times. Less smokey and less confronting, it’s got some roastiness in there, but that plays second fiddle to the sourness. Fuller in body than the first one and with a sharper sourness, it’s a welcome addition to to slowly expanding canon of Aussie brewed sours.
Style: Gruit Stout
Red Duck Long Shot
A public service announcement with this beer. This was a beer brewed in conjunction with a team of six people from Westgate Brewers (a home brew group from Melbourne) to a recipe by one of their members called Amber. It was a prize for winning the last VicBrews home brew competition. The whole brew day event was coordinated by award-winning home brewer John Kingston. Unfortunately, brewer Scott Wilson-Browne had a brain fade and put the wrong name on the label. So, when you pick one up and prepare to indulge yourself in its mocha-like treats, courtesy of Campos coffee and EquaGold organic Dutch cocoa, and read “John Preston” on the label, be aware that while John Preston is a very nice man and runs a very nice home brew shop called Grain and Grape, he had nothing to do with this beer. This beer was brewed by John Kingston, Amber and friends. And don’t you forget it.
Style: Chocolate Coffee Porter
Red Duck Ra #2
OK. It’s confession time. Embarrassing though it is to admit, our knowledge of Egyptian beers is pretty slender. What’s more, our knowledge of Egyptian bread beers is slimmer still. And when it comes to ancient imperial Egyptian bread beers, well, doncha just know it, we come up empty. Or at least we did until now, when the generous souls at Red Duck decided to culture up some sourdough yeast from a the tiny batch of Ra they made a couple of years back and make just that: an imperial Egyptian bread beer. It’s a hop free beer as they didn’t get added to beers until centuries later, but does contain, in no particular order, spelt, oats, wheat and barley, as well as a lot of raisins, sultanas and a small amount of dried orange peel and a sprinkling of spices. The result is a beer that’s all manner of things: it pours a cloudy, yeasty yellow, is thick, vinous, initially tart then fruity, with sweet honey characters joining in the fun later on. It’s also utterly unique and will never be brewed again.
Style: Imperial Egyptian Bread Beer
Red Duck The Ox 2012
We’re unashamed fans of The Ox here at The Crafty Pint with a beer fridge that’s still home to a 2010 bottle (a gift from a very generous reader) and a few 2011’s too. In fact, we like it so much we put it on the Crafty Curates lineup during Good Beer Week last year. It’s Scott Wilson-Browne’s attempt to brew a beer like Three Floyds' legendary Dark Lord, uses only first runnings and requires a 22-hour brew day. We’ve only had a wee sample of the new one and it was instantly apparent there had been a little tweak. Turns out the level of roasted malt has been raised a tiny bit, and the level of crystal malt is down. As such, there’s a little more of a roasty, bitter chocolate edge to it and possibly slightly less of the engine oil like body, resulting in our declaration that it was “pretty sessionable for an imperial stout”. There’s much else to savour in its richly layered malty mass. There’s not a lot around though so if you want some, grab it now before we do.
Style: Imperial Stout
Red Duck Ragnarok
There’s something a little disturbing about the story behind this new release from Red Duck. According to the release notes: “Ragnarok, from Norse mythology, is the final battle of the Gods, in which most are killed, and the Earth is destroyed. It would be the end of the world as we know it. But the outcome isn’t all bad, as a few Gods survive, as well as 2 humans who are able to repopulate a new and cleansed world.” All well and good, but as they go on to explain that the beer is a collaboration between Red Duck’s Scott Wilson-Browne and Beer Here’s Christian Skovdal Andersen, the implication is that they are the two men responsible for repopulating the Earth. Hmmm… Still, at least the beers their offspring would be drinking would be nothing less than fascinating. Or perhaps they’re among the few Gods who survive? Either way, the beer they’ve produced is suitably epic, a big, bold Belgian style quadrupel full of luscious dark fruit characters and with an alcohol warmth that’s boosted by the addition of a wee bit of dried chilli. Like the Hop Bach, there’s just 650 wax sealed swing top bottles around and once they’ve gone, it’s even more gone than the Earth post-Ragnarok.
Style: Belgian Quad
Red Duck Hop Bach
While Red Duck do have some hoppy beers in their range (the Bengal IPA, Hoppy Amber, for example), they’re generally a brewery that explores the beer world in other ways, whether with malt-led numbers, experiments without hops or blending meads and strong ales. With this one beer they could be seen to redress the balance in one fell swoop. Concocted with 25 different hop varieties in conjunction with visiting Danish brewer Anders Kissmeyer earlier in the year, it’s a nigh-on ten per cent Imperial IPA. Brewer Scott Wilson-Browne says it wasn’t a case of just throwing any hops at it, rather “for this bitter sweet harmony, we carefully picked as many as worked together, some for bittering only, some in aroma, and a few for both. All of the aroma hops, and two of the bittering hops were also used in dry hopping later on.” The result is silky smooth, with a bitterness that belies its parts and with the hops nicely balanced by the malt. A beer to sit alongside those big US imports, yet crafted in conjunction with a Dane in Ballarat. Just 650 bottles.
Style: Imperial IPA
Red Duck Golden Dragon
A Red Duck limited release that hasn’t seen the light of day for quite some time. The Golden Dragon is another that continues brewer Scott Wilson-Browne’s love of big, malt-led British styles. It’s a strong Celtic Ale that sits nicely alongside other Red Duck limited releases such as the whisky barrel-aged Loch Ness and last year’s Red Admiral. A complex bugger that can offer up treacle, caramel, stewed and dark fruit flavours with an earthiness and spiciness too, it’s one to savour.
Style: Strong Celtic Ale
Red Duck Canute the Gruit
Back before Red Duck existed, King Cnut Ale by the UK’s St Peter’s Brewery got Scott Wilson-Browne thinking. A hopless beer that set out to recreate ales as they might have been back in Medieval times, it ultimately inspired this. The label declares: “EXTREME ALE” and with good reason. Featuring a mix of grains, oats and spelt – some of which was “scorched” in the kettle – as well as stinging nettles and homemade hawthorn berry juice, it is as weird as they get; one that most people will probably want to share and experience rather than knock back for mere refreshment. Pouring an opaque, dark brown with a thin, brown head, it boasts a pretty thick body that belies its relatively low alcohol content. The aroma is both smoky and earthy, with dark roast and burnt coffee beans coming through as it warms. There’s a faint whiff of tartness too, but nothing to prepare you for the intense and lingering fruity sourness that awaits once quaffed. Decidedly odd.
Style: Gruit Stout
Red Duck Belgian Vanilla Porter
Yet more proof that there are no rules when it comes to brewing these days. Whether it’s Murray’s throwing a tonne of hops at an Imperial Stout, Feral combining Belgian yeast with Japanese-developed hops or people turning India Pale Ales anything but pale, it’s very much a case of anything goes. Here a Belgian yeast joins the malts of a porter in a beer that’s finished off with some organic vanilla extract. The result is a beer that will be familiar to fans of Red Duck, with plenty of chocolate, roast and mocha malt characters at its heart. That said, there’s much to differentiate it from its stablemates, not least the vanilla that’s fairly prominent on the nose and adds a smooth, lingering finish. Speaking of the nose, it’s also reminiscent of the limited edition Cadbury’s Dream bar that featured strawberry bits, but given that was last on shelves six or seven years ago this is probably as pointless a sentence as any to have appeared on The Crafty Pint. The Belgian yeast adds just the merest undertone of funk to this dark ruby beer that throws a little blackcurrant into the mix for good measure and will find favour with those who appreciate something luxuriant at the end of the evening.
Style: Specialty Porter
Red Duck Queen Bee
Time for some honesty. Faced with a wobbly table at Crafty Towers, chances are we’d fold up a bit of card, shove it under one of the legs and be done with it. We’re willing to wager such a solution simply wouldn’t do for Scott at Red Duck. After all, any man who refuses to make one of his beers for a couple of years because he can’t get hold of exactly the right type and shade of wild bush honey with which he made the previous batch doesn’t seem like the “No one’ll notice” type. Thankfully, for anyone who’s been wondering where the Queen Bee Honey Porter has been, the right honey was located and the beer is back. One of four dark beers coming out from the brewery this month (although far from the darkest – it’s a slightly cloudy dark amber / brown), it’s another multi-malty release from the soon-to-be-in Ballarat brewery. The honey’s there in the aroma, along with some plummy dark fruits and a touch of sweet alcohol, while once it’s in your mouth you can expect to find everything from toffee, cocoa, chocolate, coffee and even some nuttiness coming through along with warmth from the relatively high alcohol content. As for the name, apparently it comes from Scott’s great grandfather’s champion yacht, which dominated the Norfolk and Oulton Broads racing in the early 1920’s. So there you go.
Style: Honey Porter
Red Duck The Ox (2011)
If ever the world of beers designed to be sipped and savoured was looking for a poster boy, it could do far worse than give The Ox a call. Whenever a bottle is cracked at Crafty Towers, it’s the only one that needs opening that night; the sort of beer you can happily return to over a couple of hours. It seems only appropriate to enjoy it this way given that, on the rare occasions the Red Duck guys make it, they spend 22 hours in the brewery. Ox by name, Ox by nature, it’s a thick, dark brown beast that’s so gloopy it could almost pass off as spent engine oil. Crammed with so many different malts (and so much of it), you never know what’s coming in the next mouthful: liquorice, chocolate, burnt toffee, roast coffee, molasses; you name it, if it can be described as dark, sweet, rich or mysterious, chances are it’ll make an appearance. Who knows when it’ll next be brewed, so if it sounds like your kind of thing grab some now (before we snaffle it all).
Style: Imperial Stout
Red Duck White Garden
Crafty’s not allowed to drink at the minute (there’s a good reason) so it’s over to the brewer’s notes for the latest intriguing limited release beer from Red Duck. It’s a hybrid beer – a combination of Belgian witbier and the uber-rare Berliner weisse, an acidic, tart style of wheat beer that is deliberately soured – made with rhubarb and raspberry and therefore pink. Scott says: “At Red Duck we wanted to pay homage to Berliner Weisse, but wanted a very light tartiness, no sourness, and we didn’t want to achieve this by adding lactobacillicus or lactic acid.. He started with a wit/weisse beer base, used a soft English ale yeast to avoid spice and extra alcohol formation, and added a lot of Raspberry & Rhubarb Jam. “When the sugars from the Raspberry & Rhubarb jam are stripped out during fermentation, the true flavours are no longer masked by sweetness,” he adds. “The result is a very lightly coloured, soft pinky white ale, cloudy and very slightly tart.”
Style: Fruit-infused hybrid
Red Duck Burton
It wasn’t until Crafty was sat in a room of home brewers (in Boronia of all places) studying to become a beer judge that the significance of his birthplace in the world of beer became apparent. There’s a term in brewing – “Burtonisation” – which denotes the addition of salts to your water to try and recreate the water natural to Burton-on-Trent, the birthplace of the classic English Pale Ale (and Crafty). As such, this is Red Duck’s version of the beers from that area. Being a strident traditionalist, the brewer has gone for a beer true to the style’s early 18th Century origins with far lower hopping than found in the India Pale Ales (IPAs) that were to follow. As such, the “Bitter” of the title is something of a misnomer for those raised on highly hopped beers with big, bitter finishes. Instead, this is a cloudy, unfiltered copper coloured beer with a nutty, fruity nose (with a hint of alcohol) and a creamy mouthfeel displaying soft malt characteristics.
Style: English Pale Ale
Red Duck Red Admiral
Another Red Duck beer that looks to the UK for inspiration, this is a Celtic Ale by name, but one which brings much more to the table than that might suggest. Again displaying brewer Scott Wilson-Browne’s love of layering different malts in his beers (with the use of the rarely seen, fairly mild US hop Glacier), this throws up all manner of aromas and flavours: rum-soaked cherries, stewed fruits, sweet caramel, raspberries and chocolate on the nose; plums, dark fruits and cocoa powder to taste. Pouring a deep ruby red, with some sediment and cloudiness, the bitterness is gentle and the alcohol invisible. According to Scott, “the flavours are evocative of a rich plum pudding covered in treacle” while he says it’s a nod to his Anglo-Saxon ancestry in Suffolk and “is hoped to be a worthy tribute to the first King of the Suffolk Angles, Raedwald.” And when was the last time you could say that about a beer?
Style: Celtic Red Ale
Red Duck Black Heart
Another extremely limited release, most of this has been committed to beer clubs and homebrewers. However, a small amount is available from the Red Duck Provedore in Camperdown and some Melbourne bottleshops. Crafty’s not had the chance to sample with the Microbreweries Showcase getting in the way, so over to Slowbeer’s Chris Menichelli for some guest tasting notes: “Golden pour, darker than you come to expect from the style. Nose has a honeyed malt sweetness from the pilsner malt & a touch of caramelized orange-type esters, certainly not too unlike Duvel. Also displays clove-like yeast characters. Mid-palate has a decent amount of carbonation to balance the sweetness from the malt. On the finish we have a big old whack of phenolic spice, no doubt attributed to both the high ABV & belgian yeast strain used. Finishes with the slightest touch of earthy hop bitterness for good measure. A very interesting interpretation of the style, given the addition of spices. The name is quite appropriate, as this is certainly not for the faint of heart!”
Style: Belgian Blond
Red Duck Loch Ness
Red Duck’s Loch Ness is a dark, malty brew, with rich flavours from chocolate malt, roast barley and other dark malts. It had an extended boil time to boost caramelisation, a slow and gentle fermentation period, then a short maturation period of six weeks in charred former whisky barrels. The result is beer which pours with a tan head and displays rich but subtle flavours: roasted malt and bags of dark chocolate with touches of caramel, oak, stewed dark fruits and, atop the lingering, warming finish, some whisky. Those fruits reappear on the nose, mingling with chocolate and a touch of oak. And, says the brewer: “In case you’re worried that the char would impart a smokey character, it doesn’t. Pure carbon has a cleaning effect – this is not a smokey beer at all.”
Style: Barrel-aged Scotch Ale
Red Duck Ugly Duckling
Two years in the making, this blend of a mead made with locally sourced bush honey and two 50l batches of barrel-aged strong ale was described by one of The Crafty Pint’s friends on first tasting as “beyond beer”. It’s a recreation of a medieval style called a braggot. At 14.3%, the Ugly Duckling is still in its infancy and will mature “for decades”, according to its maker. Even now, it’s wonderfully multi-layered: viscous, uncarbonated and golden, it boasts a lightly wooded aroma with hints of calvados and toffee apple. Honey, oak, spiced rumkopf fruit and sweet alcohol combine in a slightly tart palate with a dry finish. A digestif to surprise your guests.
Red Duck The Ox 2010
To create a good Imperial Stout demands the maker doesn’t hold back. And that’s the case with The Ox, an appropriately named behemoth of a beer from Red Duck. Its thick, almost tar-like body is apparent the moment it leaves the bottle and crawls down the side of your glass. It’s a beer to be savoured over an evening (just as well given its strength!) and one in which all manner of flavours can be unearthed, from mouth-filling molasses to rich, treacly chocolate. Exquisite.
Style: Imperial Stout