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Crafty Pint

Your Guide to Australian Craft Beer / Thursday 28 August 2014

Barely a week goes by without another seasonal or one-off special flying out of an Australian brewery. We’ll do our best to know what’s coming when, where it’s going and – where possible – what it tastes like before it goes on sale. Be aware, however, that just because a venue’s getting a beer doesn’t mean they’ve tapped it. They tend to go fast too so check they’re not sold out first!

  Beer Details Where

Mountain Goat FX Stout Released on 10/05/13

It’s usually around this time of the year that Mountain Goat rolls out its big guns, sorry, Bigfoot. But this year, there’s a different kind of stout in town, namely the FX. Short for Foreign Extra, it’s a beer that weighs in roughly midway between where their Surefoot and Bigfoot normally register on the ABV scale, measuring 6.7 per cent. It’s smooth, rich, deeply dark and dangerously drinkable if you’re into roasty, chocolatey affairs. Traditional in its design and gently warming too, it should be perfect for when this last bout of 20C plus weather departs Melbourne and winter descends too. It’s also the precursor for another big beer from Goat; we hear a new Double IPA is waiting in the wings that one of the brewers tells us is their best DIPA yet. Watch this space…

Foreign Extra Stout 6.7%

Mountain Goat
The Fitzroy Pinnacle
The Terminus

Mash Brewing Dubbel Brown Released on 9/05/13

Another new beer that’s playing loose and fancy free with styles is the latest from Mash. With a tale that sounds not too dissimilar to that of The Mash Collective’s Aureus Chrysalis, the Dubbel Brown mixes a Belgian ale yeast (the Dubbel part of its name) with and English style brown ale malt bill. However, further twisting its DNA, the brewers have used US hops too. According to head brewer Charlie Hodgson: “We have fermented it on the cool side to keep the yeast on the down low but to still have a subtle impact. It comes with fantastic malt depth and complexity. A careful and somewhat generous blend of English style American grown hops late in the boil contribute layered fruit notes to support the heavier malts.The Americanised spin is just a reference to those guys taking normal styles and lifting them to heights not seen before.” He says to look out for “big raisin and caramel malts” plus “fruity notes coming from yeast and hops with soft warming alcohols to finish.”

Belgian Dubbel 7.0%

Mash Brewing

Illawarra Brownish Bomber Released on 6/05/13

It’s a brown ale. Or is it? As Shaun Blissett from Illawarra Brewing tells us, apparently in US beer competitions there are certain characters a brown ale must have in order to be classified a ‘true’ brown ale. Everything else claiming brown-ness but not fitting the technical definition gets reclassified to a separate category: Texas Brown Ale. It’s a nice way of saying that it doesn’t quite fit in and that’s probably what you could say about Milo Kerrigan. The former (and, it should be said, fictional) boxer nicknamed “The Brownish Bomber” was as famed for his 27 knockouts – two of which he inflicted on opponents – as he was for his ‘expert’ television punditry on all manner of subjects.

As a tribute to this Aussie cult figure, the boys from Illawarra have brewed a Texas Brown Ale and named it The Brownish Bomber. The beer itself is indeed brown and uses all US hops, including the new El Dorado variety which gives a fruity, citrus punch. It’s got a classic malt base that should keep brown ale traditionalists happy, plus hints of chocolate and a slight whiff of tobacco.

Like Milo Kerrigan in the boxing ring, it won’t be around very long. Unlike Milo Kerrigan, this beer does a far better impression of a brown ale than he ever did as a boxer. NO

Texas Brown Ale 5.9%

Illawarra Brewing Company (growler fills)
Illawarra Brewery Bar
Harts Pub
The Local Taphouse Darlo
The Albion Hotel
The Duck Inn Pub and Kitchen
The Little Guy
Beer DeLuxe
Josie Bones

Bright Brewery Little Brother Released on 2/05/13

There’s a very strict rule in place for any brewer taking part in this year’s GABS – your beer must not be released anywhere before GABS is over (so we’ll keep schtum about the US entry we sampled at the Craft Brewers Conference in March – was bloody delish though!!!). However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have offshoots of your GABS beer, which is what the team at Bright has done, creating a “parti gyle” brew with the left over grain from their epic entry. “Parti gyle” beers use what’s left over to create a weaker beer, meaning in this case a beer from the aftermath of brewer Jon Seltin’s barley/rye/oat wine. He tells us the “grist is 40 per cent rye malt, 5 per cent oat malt, and the balance a couple of different types of malted barley. Kettle hops are all Mosaic, dry hops are all Slovenian varieties.” It’s on tap at the brewery now, where you can also snap up tickets to their Hop, Skip & Lunch Good Beer Week event.

Partigyle Ale

Bright Brewery

Feral Tusk Released on 26/04/13

When The Crafty Pint was over in the US in March, there was plenty of hype around Stone Brewing’s Enjoy By Double IPA, a new release from the Californians that is sent out as fresh as possible with the date before which it must be drunk emblazoned across it. The result is an impeccably fresh hop bomb of a beer in which the hop characteristics don’t have time to taper off. The day before returning, we had another IPA – Maine’s Lunch – recommended to us that, again, comes with a tight best before date for the same reasons (we managed to drink ours 13 days after it was released in a different hemisphere from where it was released which must be some sort of record).

The point of this preamble isn’t to gloat (much) but to make the point that there’s a rising tide of awareness that some beers – particularly massively hopped IPAs – really are drunk best fresh. Yes, they might take on different characteristics later on, but not the ones the brewers want you to experience. Hence the latest venture from Feral for this new batch of their Imperial IPA Tusk. It’s the first time it’s been brewed in a few years and is the biggest brother of their line of US-inspired hoppy pales. The few kegs that have been brewed have only been granted to venues who have guaranteed that there will be cold refrigerated transport from brewery to bar and that it will be tapped the instant it arrives. As the brewery’s Steve Finney told us: “Northwest USA style IPAs need to be fresh to taste best.” FInd out for yourself when the Tusk lands near you soon…

Imperial IPA 9.8%

September 2013 release venues
Five Bar
Sail & Anchor
Clancy’s City Beach
Norfolk Hotel
SA
The Wheaty

Seven Sheds Fuggled Porter Released on 25/04/13

Tasmanian brewery Seven Sheds has just embarked on its second experiment recreating an historic beer journey. A year after sending an IPA in wooden casks for a month traversing the Bass Strait until it had covered the distance the original India Pale Ales travelled from the UK to India, they’ve loaded a beer in Tassie pinot noir barrels onto the Spirit of Tasmania II for two months to recreate the journey of the first beer sent from the UK to Australia. This time around it’s a “roasty, robust porter”, leavened with organic oats from nearby Elgaar Farm and a generous late gift of Fuggle hop flowers, estate-grown and hand-picked at the brewery in Railton. Continuing the uber-local approach, the backbone of this “complex, dusky brew” is Tassie-grown barley, malted nearby at Quoiba. According to brewer Willie Simpson, the blend of roasted barley, crystal and dark malts “provide toasted, tarry characters, while the naked, rolled oats add a silky touch.” You can read more about the brewery’s fifth anniversary this week here, as well as more on the ferry beer, which will be released in 420 bottles in August. If you’d like to pre-order one, call the brewery or pop in and pick one up from the cellar door later in the year. Be warned – if it’s anything like the Bass Strait IPA, they’ll go fast.

Porter

New Sydney Hotel
Seven Sheds

Bellarine Two Wives Chocolate Stout Released on 24/04/13

In 2012, Bellarine introduced a second label under which it has been releasing limited run and seasonal beers. Among them is this Chocolate Stout, a cracker of a beer that has become an almost permanently brewed beer and the second top stout on the brewery’s roster. Bigger, thicker, creamier and richer than the Mussel Stout, it’s topped off with the use of French oak from the winery’s barrels. The wood is suspended in the beer in the conditioning tanks, adding layers of vanilla and creamy caramel to the finished beer, one that has liqueur like qualities.

Chocolate Stout 6.5%

Moon Dog Lando Kardashian Released on 24/04/13

As hybrids go, the fusing of Star Wars' Lando Calrissian with one of modern TV’s most potent symbols of an impending apocalypse is pretty unusual; adding what appears to be a Wookiee’s hand and a rubber glove to the label of the beer bearing said name adds further confusion. Yet the style for Moon Dog’s latest isn’t as outlandoish as many from their past. That said, the fact that a massively hopped, high alcohol Belgian Tripel isn’t completely novel probably says more about life on the boundaries of the craft beer world today than it does about Moon Dog. A fusion of New World hops, American and Belgian yeasts and enough malt to allow it to scale the heights of 11.5 per cent, it’s a fruity, boozy, maltily sweet yet hoppily bitter treat that lingers long on the palate and reminds us somewhat of the Troubadour Magma that’s been doing the rounds recently.

Belgian Tripel 11.5% 65 IBU

Beer DeLuxe
The Dispensary Enoteca
Grain & Grape
The Local Taphouse St Kilda
Blackhearts & Sparrows
Prince Wine & Spirits Essendon
Purvis Beer Richmond
Purvis Cellars
Slowbeer
Others tbc

Matilda Bay Pebbles Released on 22/04/13

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…

Strong Ale 7.4% 45 IBU

Matilda Bay
Tap and growler fills

The Monk Dunkel Released on 22/04/13

They’ve been hop happy at Freo’s Monk in recent months, with many of their small batch releases high on lupulin love. Not that this is a bad thing, with versions of their Chief IPA and the Three Fires Imperial IPA doing rather well for themselves at the most recent Perth Royal Beer Show. But with Autumn upon us, it’s been time for Monk brewer Paul Wyman to take a turn to the dark (and malty) side to create a Dunkel. Based on the Bavarian Dunkelweizen style, the beer, says Paul, “has a delicious looking copper brown colour which dictates the extensive malt base this beer has been created from. From the mixture of speciality malts you should be tasting caramel, burnt toffee and possibly a hint of chocolate while on the nose your sensors should be picking up a indication of sweet clove and banana aromas.” Said aromas come from the yeast that’s traditionally use to produce normal hefeweizen (wheat beers), with a Dunkel (which translates from German as “dark” or “black”) a more beefed up version designed to cater to the “malt heads”. Like the brewer himself, in fact.

Dunkelweizen 5.5% 15 IBU

The Monk

Matilda Bay Barking Duck Released on 21/04/13

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.

Saison 5.5% 22 IBU

Matilda Bay
Tap and growler fills

Eagle Bay Single Batch Pilsner Released on 21/04/13

The team at Margaret River’s Eagle Bay have decided to welcome Autumn with open arms in the form of a traditional Czech style Pilsner. Using fresh rainwater captured on their own farm and their own homegrown hops to create a “fresh and crisp” sessionable lager, their latest has gone on tap at the brewery with a small amount making its way to Perth’s Five Bar. The brewers tell us: “It’s bright gold in colour with floral aromatics from the handpicked, fresh, green hops from our small plot we grow next to the brewery.” The handpicked hops are of the Hersbrucker and Wurtenberger variety, joining Helga and Czech Saaz in the mix. As for what to expect once swigged: “Our Pilsner is well balanced, with subtle fruity characters and a cleansing bitterness to finish.”

Pilsner 5.1% 35 IBU

Eagle Bay Brewery
Five Bar

Mad Brewers Wee Highlander Released on 19/04/13

It’s been a while – six months, in fact – since the last release from Malt Shovel’s Mad Brewers label, which is a shame as they’ve knocked out some crackers in the past year or two, such as the deeply unusual Scribbly Gum lager and the rather fulsome Hoppy Hefe. Now, they’re back with a beer inspired by Crafty’s homeland. The Wee Highlander is a Scotch Ale designed by the brewery’s own ‘wee’ highlander Hamish McArthur. “The style and name of this brew originates from Scotland and my Scottish heritage,” says Hamish, “a Scotch strong Ale (or Wee Heavy) that we have dubbed Wee Highlander.” In keeping with the style, it’s a "rich, full-bodied, Scottish Ale brewed using a small portion of peated malt to add a slight smokiness and malted oats to add depth of character.”

“Just like traditionally brewed Scotch Ales, this brew undergoes an extended boil which, along with the use of crystal malts, gives a high degree of caramelisation of the brewhouse wort. The result is a brew that has a deep red hue and a much more pronounced malty caramel and roasted malt flavour,” says Hamish. At 6.7 per cent, it should also make for a suitable transition beer as we head into winter. Enjoy from a thistle glass (of course).

Scotch Ale 6.7%

Nationwide from April 19
The Fitzroy Pinnacle

Red Duck Shy Blond Released on 16/04/13

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.

Spiced Belgian Blonde 7.1%

Slowbeer
Purvis Cellars
McCoppins
Press Cellars
Blackhearts & Sparrows
Swords Select
Olinda Cellars

Moon Dog Mr Mistoffelees Released on 15/04/13

Now this is a weird one. And not just because it’s a beer from Moon Dog. No, because when we first sampled Mr Mistoffelees at last year’s Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular, we found it to have an unpleasant characteristic that rendered it, to the Crafty palate at least, undrinkable. That it went on to be voted one of the most popular beers at the event was a surprise, one we put down to the fact that some beer nerds just want to love anything different or that we had yet to unlock some part of the Crafty mouth-brain synaptic highway that would allow us to understand such characteristics. This current release is to the same recipe yet is unrecognisable from the one we sampled 11 months ago, so presumably we got a beer from a bad line, a mouthful of yeast or God knows what. Certainly, back then, we weren’t hit by the sort of fruity aroma that Phil Spector would create if he’d spent his life creating fruity aromas for beers instead of walls of sound, crazy hair and dead women. Because that’s what Mr M is delivering here – tonnes of passionfruit and mango up front to entice you in before a gentle, puckering tartness takes over. In fact, such is the fruity explosion that the effects of the various wild yeast strains and six months of barrel-ageing on this cloudy orange beer play a supporting role rather than taking centre stage; just like Phil Spector to The Ronettes, in fact.

Wild Ale with Fruit 6.2%

Beer DeLuxe
Deja Vu
Deco
The Dispensary Enoteca
Grain & Grape
The Local Taphouse St Kilda
Blackhearts & Sparrows
Mrs Parma’s
Olinda Cellars
Penny Blue
Pope Joan
Prince Wine & Spirits Essendon
Purvis Beer Richmond
Purvis Cellars
Raccoon Club
Rockwell & Sons
Smith Street Cellars
Slowbeer
Others tbc