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Crafty Pint

Your Guide to Australian Craft Beer / Thursday 24 April 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

Mornington Peninsula Brewery Pale Ale (cans) Released on 1/04/14

The cans keep on coming, with Mornington Peninsula Brewery following in the footsteps of the Australian Brewery and Mountain Goat by popping craft beer into cans. They’ve installed their own canning line and first to make an appearance, in rather fetching black and gold livery, is their Pale Ale. Already an appealingly aromatic, balanced and flavoursome beer, it has received its first tweak in the three and a half years since it was the brewery’s launch beer. The tweak takes the form of dry hopping with Citra and Amarillo with the intention of boosting its upfront passionfruit aromas. Following a series of launch events in late March, the cans are making their way to the usual Mornington stockists around the country.

Pale Ale 4.7%

Feral Beral Released on 1/04/14

The current craze for craft brewers to put their product into cans continues unabated. Latest to get involved is the reigning Champion Medium Brewery of Australia, Feral. The arrival of their first can has come almost unheralded and, most surprising of all, it is also their first cider. Feral Beral is launched following extensive research by the Swan Valley brewer which showed that, while Feral’s core beer products appealed to discerning drinkers of both genders, they where missing out on a significant market of “18-40 Mainstream Bingers”. They believe this more scientific approach to creating new products will stand them in good stead for future growth. As well as carrying out extensive research, Feral has been lobbying the Australian Cider Society to recognise “Olde Englishish” as an official style.

The brewery’s Steve Finney explains: “As the cider market becomes flooded with brands, the ACS has recognised the need to create categories that allow manufacturers to take full advantage of cheap constituted apple juices. Obviously ‘Chinese Cider’ isn’t as desirable to our target audience as something that is reminiscent of the traditional home of cider.”

Head brewer Brendan Varis adds: “By reconstituting these juices and adding sweeteners, we were able to create a very cost effective product and a taste profile that appeals to those that are interested in consuming their alcoholic beverages in bulk. It’s not something that I would choose to drink, but it makes economic sense and it is an approach that I am excited to pursue on the beer side of the business if this proves successful, which all our data suggests it will. The reality is that creating fresh, local products will only take you so far and my ambitions for Feral are global.”

Extra Sweet Cider 5.0%

Nationwide at good bottleshops

Bright Brewery Saison de Varleè (plus variations) Released on 31/03/14

We make little secret here at Crafty Towers of our love for saisons and accompanying belief that they are a wonderful beer for the Aussie climate. So it’s always nice to see another one appear, especially it’s one that is being released in three different formats. On our last couple of visits to Bright in the Victorian High Country, we’ve been lucky enough to have a nosy around the back of the brewery where head brewer Jon Seltin has all manner of experimental programs underway. He has involved a little of one of them in these latest releases, although the main beer – the Saison de Varleè – remains a pretty traditional take on the Wallonian farmhouse style. It’s brewed with Belgian pilsner malt and Australian wheat malt, pours a cloudy golden colour and is, we’re told “complex and effervescent”. The fruity and spicy character of the beer comes from a unique yeast originally smuggled out of the Brasserie De Blaugies.

As for the variations, one sees the same wort (the hoppy, sweet, sugary water that becomes beer with the addition of yeast) fermented with the classic Saison DuPont yeast and will be available at the brewery bar only. Then there is a handful of “very special kegs” which will be a blend of the Varleè Saison and a three-year-old barrel-aged lambic, to make a rare, one off provision ale. Says Jon: “Finished the harvest? Then lay down your scythe, wipe the sweat from your brow and and revitalise yourself with one of our new Saisons. Only available for farm hands.”

Saison Various

Bright Brewery
Others TBC

Morrison Brewery Imperial Wit Released on 30/03/14

It looks like a case of “giving something back” here as former home brewer-turned-brewer Paul Morrison has opened up the doors of his brewery to another home brewer. This Imperial Wit was originally brewed by Stuart Grant for the home brew comp at Launceston’s Esk Beerfest. It took home first place, earning him the chance to brew it on a commercial scale. That he did with a local brewery that has proved itself rather adept at Belgian style brews with its fine limited release Saison. This time around it is, as the name suggests, a strong Belgian style witbier, albeit a variation of Stuart’s winning brew. The variation? It’s much stronger… Brewed using malted barley and raw wheat, then pepped up with a touch of sugar, in the style of Belgium’s Abbey ales, it was then dry hopped with Australian Galaxy hops post fermentation. What does that all mean? We’re told: “Following intense aromatics, the palate is dominated by an earthy spiciness typical of Belgian yeast strains. The finish is complex and fruity, with just a hint of the citrusy-herbal hops poking through.” It turns out Stuart is part of the team behind Launceston’s latest craft beer sensation, Saint John Craft Beer, too. So guess where you might find it first…

Imperial Witbier 7.5%

Saint John Craft Beer
Others TBC

Mildura Brewery English IPA Released on 27/03/14

There are IPAs aplenty around Australia at these days but few and far between that are based on the original IPAs out of the UK. But continuing the stream of limited releases made possible by the purchase of some new tanks late last year, Mildura has produced one. It is a beer close to head brewer Rod Williams' heart as he brewed in the UK for many years before moving to Australia. The first tastes were offered at the recent Good Beer Week Gala Showcase, with the beer proving popular there and, subsequently, with venues to the extent that a second, larger batch has been brewed. The beer itself is an old school, wholesome treat, featuring Golden Naked Oats and malted oats among the grain bill to give it a lovely, soft, almost creamy mouthfeel and a combination of Target, Challenger and Fuggles hops, including dry-hopping with Target, that give it some distinctly earthy aromas unlike the vast majority of IPAs on the market. There are soft caramel and toffee flavours, a touch of fruitiness and a broad and softly building bitterness.

English IPA 5.9% 50 IBU

First batch went to:
Junction Beer Hall
Mrs Parma’s
Brother Burger & The Marvellous Brew
Pope Joan
Oscar’s Ale House
The Local Taphouse St Kilda
Others TBC

Feral Brewing Nan's Driving Released on 24/03/14

It’s all go out Feral at the moment, it seems. No sooner had a fresh batch of Watermelon Warhead made its way from the Swan Valley brewery than the German IPA Hopfen Fahrt followed, and now this limited release too. Nan’s Driving is a tea-infused Amber Ale that we are told has “a slightly sweet malt body and an easy going bitter finish.” The tea comes into play at the end of fermentation when the brewers add jasmine and green tea leaves to the fermenter, leaving the beer with an earthiness from the green tea and an aroma that “may just remind you of your grandmother”. The combination of tea and beer has worked wonders for the Yeastie Boys and there’s a whole Good Beer Week event based around beer and tea, so why not, hey? And if that’s still not enough Feral for you, bottles of Barrique O'Karma will be heading across the country any day now as well.

Amber Ale 3.2% 26IBU

Feral
The Wheaty
Others TBC

Van Dieman Harvest Ale 2014 Released on 22/03/14

Recently, we were lucky enough to sample again the last vintage of Van Dieman’s barrel-aged sour take on their Hedgerow Ale, a beer that was great when it was straight, utterly wonderful soured, and seemingly getting better with age. Hopefully, there will be a new release soon, but in the meantime Will Tatchell has been keeping busy, with the latest cab off the rank a rather unique Harvest Ale. It’s a 7.1 percent ABV white IPA brewed with fresh hops grown on the brewery farm in Evandale and added to the brew within two hours of being picked by a team of dedicated craft beer fans. It features 35kgs of Cascade and Super Pride in a Belgian witbier base brew. According to Will: “This year’s Harvest Ale showcases a classic Belgian yeast aroma, with hints of fresh mint, citrus and floral aromas. It has a refreshing fruity flavour, crisp peachy bitterness and subtle spice notes. It’s a great example of the continued up take of craft beer in Tasmania, and the huge variety of beer styles now available to the discerning drinker. These wet hops are literally dripping with the sticky delicious yellow substance, lupulin, which carries with it most of the essential aromatic oils from the hop plant.”

White IPA 7.1% 55IBU

Keg only release around Tasmania
First keg at Saint John Craft beer – March 22

Little Creatures Single Batch Rule of Three Released on 21/03/14

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.

Dubbel Bitter 5.7% 38IBU

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

BrewCult Beer Geek Rage Quit Released on 20/03/14

We’re not sure whether BrewCult’s Hendo “Hendo” Henderson needed to do anything more to cement his place as one of the country’s beer geeks' favourite brewers. But, if he did, this latest beer and everything surrounding it should do the trick. Not only is it named after a phrase related to gaming, but he has secured the services of “alt model” Mat Hoffman for the labels, produced a beer with four different labels, and asked Mat to contribute label notes in teenage text speak. The beer itself is a India Pale Lager, in other words a lager with IPA like hopping. Think Love Tap then add a little additional Hendo twist – the one that appears to have led to the title of the beer: “Beer Geek Rage Quit is a beer designed to create a love-hate affiliation amongst the hardcore beer geeks,” he says. “Most beer geeks drink ale, this is a lager. It’s got Pride of Ringwood hops in it – same as Carlton Draught.” It’s also got heaps of US and Kiwi hops in there too, which we are told leads to aromas of citrus, pine, lemon, grapefruit and tangelo, with similar flavours – and strawberry, apparently – following through. The beer is hitting taps this weekend and the brewer himself will be in Brisbane to talk all about it as part of Brewsvegas next week. Presumably, with Mat alongside him demonstrating how best it should be consumed.

India Pale Lager 5.5% 50 IBU

The Alehouse Project
The Scratch
Grain Store
Cammeray Craft
The Pourhouse Maitland
The Hop Factory
Quarrymans Hotel
Woodlands Hotel
Odyssey Tavern
Belgian Beer Cafe Melbourne
Bitter Phew
New Brighton
The Prince Of Wales Merrewether
Union Hotel Newtown
Station Bar
Harts Pub
The Local Taphouse Darlo
The Wheaty
Brother Burger & The Marvellous Brew
Hu Ha Bar
Tipplers Tap Kerbside

Feral Brewing Hopfen Fahrt Released on 20/03/14

As the popularity of New World hop varieties has grown, there has been less love around for the Old World. But, just as Australia’s main grower, Hop Products Australia, has changed direction in recent years to wind down production of Pride of Ringwood and its ilk in favour of new stars such as Galaxy, Ella and Vic Secret, so have breeders in Europe. Recent times have seen the traditional hop growing regions of Germany endeavouring to create flamboyant and expressive aroma and flavour hops to rival the varieties offered by the US, New Zealand and Australia. So the team at Feral figured they should find out what these new German varieties were all about. They laid their hands on high oil varieties of Polaris, Mandarina Bavaria, Saphire and Herkules and use them to create this German IPA, a beer they say is bursting with fresh stone fruit, mandarin and grassy aromas, is chock-full of spicy, resinous hops, and rounded out by a solid whack of bitterness. As for the name, it brings back childhood trips around Germany giggling every time we’d pass a turn off on the autobahn and spy the words “Ausfahrt”. But just as that only meant “Exit”, Hopfen Fahrt means little more than “Hop Trip”. Still, drink enough of it and who knows what other meanings might present themselves…

German IPA 6.4% 52 IBU

Feral
The Alehouse Project
The Wheaty
Sail & Anchor
Others TBC

Lord Nelson Double Nelson IPA Released on 11/03/14

Usually when we announce a limited release beer from Sydney’s iconic Lord Nelson, it’s one that you have to travel to the hotel in The Rocks to sample. This time around, however, for the first time in its quarter century history the brewery is releasing some of its seasonals in 500ml bottles. First up for the treatment is its Double Nelson IPA, a souped up version of its popular Three Sheets American Pale Ale. It takes its name from an English cricketing tradition. Nelson, which is any multiple of 111, is deemed to be an unlucky number for a team to sit upon. Former English umpire David Shepherd was one who believed the superstition could be overcome by only ever having one foot on the ground at a time, which he would do even while officiating in Test matches. We’re not quite sure how this relates to the beer, which is a straightforward American-inspired IPA with familiar citrus and piney aromas that follow through in spades in the mouth. The hops are prominent on the palate but, while the bitterness is noticeable it’s pretty mild for an IPA, making this a sessionable rather than aggressive take on the style.

US IPA 5.8%

In bottles nationwide where you find Three Sheets and Old Admiral

4 Pines Keller Door Single Hop Series Calypso Released on 11/03/14

Of all the Keller Door series undertaken by Manley’s 4 Pines, the Single Hop Series has been the most prolific, resulting in a broad spectrum of beers showcasing different hops from around the globe. The concept is simple: to the same base beer is added a different hop variety so that drinkers can discover just what it does to a beer. The Calypso is something of a rarity in the series given it has gone beyond being a limited run tap beer and made it into 500ml bottles that will be available relatively widely across the country. Given it has been chosen to flee the coop, you might expect it to be the sort of hoppy ale that leaps up your nostrils and then takes a spanking paddle to the back of your tongue. However, it’s actually a rather delicate affair, one that saunters gaily through your nostrils while reaching for feathers from the dress up wardrobe with which to tantalise rather than pummel the back of your tongue. What the Calypso hop serves up is of the citrusy and spicy variety, characteristics that are prominent more on the palate than the aroma. It would be interesting to see how it fares turned up to 11 in an IPA.

Single Hop Pale Ale 5.0% 27 IBU

Nationwide

Holgate Brewhouse Millennium Falcon 2014 Released on 9/03/14

The beer originally created for Holgate’s 1,000th brew is back. The Star Wars-inspired Millennium Falcon is the brewery’s hoppiest beer, sitting atop a hierarchy of pale ales that starts with their Mt Macedon Ale and continues through the Road Trip IPA and Hopinator to this Imperial (or Empirial) IPA. Continuing the Star Wars theme throughout the beer, it features Millennium, Falconer’s Flight and Galaxy hops. Plenty of them too, with the beer registering 10 percent ABV and 100 IBU (a measure of bitterness, with 100 also referred to as “shitloads”). We had a taste from the bottle prior to its release and we’re happy to report that the 2014 vintage is a step up on the original. This time around, the brewers have captured far more hop aromatics, making it as hard to resist as the Great Pit of Carkoon.

Imperial IPA 10%

Holgate
Rainbow Hotel
Royal Albert Hotel
The Albion Hotel
The Park Hotel
Others TBC

Feral Brewing Watermelon Warhead Released on 7/03/14

The rise of sour beers in Australia hasn’t been as rapid as many might have expected. It is understandable; when you’re playing with bugs and barrels and wild beasties – and something that, like love for Phil Collins, can’t be hurried – you’re in a different ballpark than the relatively simple water, hops, malt and yeast scenario. However, the sour that has caused most excitement over the past couple of years is back. Watermelon Warhead made its bow at the 2012 Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular, where the Chardonnay barrel-aged sour beer inspired by the popular kid’s lolly wowed people with its uniqueness and intensity of flavour. There is talk that one day it will be bottled as part of the Swan Valley’s Brewery’s Brewpub series, but for now it remains a draught only release. Based on the Berliner-Weisse style, it is a light sour German wheat beer brewed with an addition of half a ton of Swan Valley watermelons (yes, you read that right: half a ton). The beer spends 12 weeks in Chardonnay barrels before being blended to the desired taste and sourness.

Berliner-Weisse 2.9%

Feral
Then select venues nationwide – we’ll update as soon as we have them confirmed.

Prickly Moses Commander IPA Released on 7/03/14

We’re about to enter the time of year where, even more than usual in the current climate, there is a particular focus on hops. Home experimenters with their own handful of plants, small breweries with a few rows of bines and the country’s major hop growers are all in the process of, or about to start, harvesting this year’s crop. Yet Prickly Moses' latest, despite being an IPA with plenty of all-Aussie hops contain within, is keen for us to focus on another ingredient. It is named Commander after a new type of malt that head brewer Luke Scott believes he is the first to use as a base malt in a commercial beer. It is being introduced after being developed for its greater resistance to disease and replaces Galaxy, a variety of Aussie malt, not the all-conquering hop (not that that’s in any way confusing…).

“Everyone talks about hops,” says Luke. “But you always need malt to hold up the beer. The first thing I decide upon with a new beer is the yeast, then the malt and then the hops. Malt to me is the important one.” That said, he’s used a blend of all local, and mostly new, hop varieties in it too: Ella (64 per cent), Vic Secret (32 per cent), Galaxy (3 per cent), Pride of Ringwood (1 per cent). He says this will be the first of a series of Commander beers, while lovers of IPAs can look out for the return of the Chardonnay IPA, for which the winemaker from McWilliams will be joining Luke in the Otway Ranges for the blending. Oh, he’s got heaps of barrel experiments going on for Good Beer Week too, but you’ll discover that when you get your hands on the official program next week…

Australian IPA 5.8%

Prickly Moses
Hop Factory
New Brighton Hotel
Pourhouse
Petersham Bowling Club
Quarrymans Hotel
Union Hotel Newtown
Grain Store
The Local Taphouse Darlo
Bitter Phew
The Prince of Wales
Steve’s Cool Booze
Forest Lodge
Station Bar
Beach Club Collaroy
FLATROCK Brew Cafe
The Sands Hotel
The little guy
Royal Albert Hotel
The Welcome Hotel
New Sydney Hotel
The Scratch
Transit Bar
Preachers Bar
Bine Beer Bar
Others TBC