Nick O / 17.10.12
Yesterday we looked at a bunch of new beers that will be appearing during Sydney Craft Beer Week, including those from 4 Pines, HopDog BeerWorks, Riverside Brewing and Southern Bay. Today, with just three days to go until the festival gets underway, we find out what others have been brewing…
One of the inevitable pleasures of owning a brewery must be having a lot of friends stopping by for a chat, perhaps asking to borrow a cup of grain or even seeing if they can whip up a few thousand litres of beer. Richard Adamson, founder and head brewer at Young Henry’s, has particularly been busy with the latter in the lead up to Sydney Craft Beer Week, collaborating not once, not twice, but thrice on new brews.
The first, with Darren ‘Doc’ Robinson, of Doctor’s Orders (see their barrels pictured above), has seen the two laugh in the face of the generally accepted beer classification system in order to produce a White Stout. Exactly how that’s been done involves delving into historical meaning of the word ‘Stout’, the evolution of the Stout Porter and a willingness to put an unquestionably unique take on whatever that style is deemed to be.
Named ‘Night Nurse’, the beer looks for all intents and purposes like a traditional summer ale. However, pop your nose in the glass, have a sip and prepare for befuddlement. Brewed with Maris Otter, wheat, oats, barley, new world English hops, Doc’s secret hop concoction and some post-ferment action that was evidently off the scale, Doc reckons it might be a good one to try blindfolded. Richard summed it up as being “a beast to brew (always the case when Doc is in the brewery) and it’s beastly, big and bitter. It’s either the Night Nurse to help you round off the night, or you’ll be needing a nurse afterwards."
Jayne Lewis of Two Birds was next in line at the brewery, helping to create ‘Otaku’. Otaku is apparently a Japanese term referring to people with obsessive interests and in this case the interest lay in attempting to push umami flavour in the beer. That’s seen them use Wakame and Laver (types of seaweed) in the mash and Houjicha, a locally-grown and roasted green tea, in the hopback. Richard says that’s resulted in “an intriguing and balanced beer that’ll accompany Asian food perfectly”, which is rather handy considering they’ll be serving it up with piles of dumplings on the night of the official launch at the Royal Albert Hotel.
Beer number three to come from the Newtown brewery is ‘Radio Red’, a fundraising beer made for and with local radio station, FBi Radio. After the station put out a call for presenters and volunteers, a large crew came down to the brewery for a bit of a communal think tank. Richard says: “Having that many people involved in the design of the beer was a bit daunting, but the group came up with some great ideas."
The winner turned out to be a hoppy red ale with an indigenous twist (think Cascade hops and Davidson’s Plums) that reflects the stations dedication to home-grown talent. Richard reckons it’s turned out to be “a cracking beer”.
If you’re looking for something at the strong end of the spectrum, it’ll be hard to go past the latest contribution from Rocks Brewing: a Rum barrel oak-aged Porter. The story brewer Scotty Morgan gave us about the creation of this beer is worth several thousand words in itself, but we’ll condense it down to a “Eureka!” moment during a tasting and brewery tour of Southern California’s Firestone Walker Brewing Co and their barrel aging antics. After corresponding with Firestone’s brewer, Will Crosby, about the methods and merits of blending and barrel aging, Scotty procured some recently-emptied rum barrels and the trials began.
In the first few weeks he says “the rum was overwhelming, almost like someone had dumped a rum and coke into a glass of porter”. But, three months on, the beer “has gone through a complete change of flavour” with “sherry notes and an intense complex nose”. A further blending should “add some body and bitterness which had dropped out of the aged sample”. With only a dozen kegs in existence, the events at Harts Pub will be the place to go looking for this one.
Another key contributor in the strong beer club comes from Craig Wealands of Thirsty Crow and his aptly named ‘Road 2 Ruin’. The result of a 16 hour brew day involving three mashes – the second of which broke the paddle – it’s a 10.3 per cent Imperial Long Black Stout which had 50 shots of Wagga Wagga’s finest espresso added to the conditioning tank and after secondary ferment. Craig says: “Road 2 Ruin is nitrogenated and should be poured with a sparkler for the full experience."
Adding to that is the return of an ‘anti-collaboration’ brew made ‘with’ Bootleg Brewery called ‘The Raven’s Thong’. As Craig says of that, “both brewers formulated recipes without any mutual consultation and merged the two recipes into the beer ending in an ‘Alaskan Summer Midnight Belgian Dark Strong Ale’.“ It was originally brewed several months ago for a beer dinner but “has developed with age and is tasting great with abundant clove spice, vanilla and sweet figs in a highly carbonated ale.” These Thirsty Crow beers, along with several of their others that rarely venture into Sydney will be available at different times at Yulli’s and Hart Pub.
Over at the Lord Nelson, they’ve brewed a batch of something we’re starting to see a little of in Australia: a Rye Ale. Called ‘One Eyed Rye’, it’s actually making its debut slightly before SCBW (as in this week) when The Lord hosts a brewer’s dinner. After that, it’ll be available at the bar until it’s gone. Trystam Hayden of the Lord Nelson tells us it’s a golden-coloured, 4.6 per cent affair that’s “luxurious and malty on the palate, with fresh floral aromas and a dry, spritzy finish".
Lastly, but by no means leastly, Murray’s are bringing a disproportionate amount of hops down from Port Stephens for their quarterly beer dinner at Murray’s At Manly. With a focus on IPAs, proceedings will begin with a cask-conditioned version of the preposterously flavour-filled low ABV Retro Rocket before escalating rather quickly via Big Wednesday, an oak-aged version of Icon 2IPA and the Spartacus Imperial IPA. As anyone who’s been to one of these feasts can attest, the last few beers are always wonderfully named, creatively brewed or blended, generally rather strong and strictly one-night-only affairs. To find out what goes into ‘Heart of Spartacus’, ‘The Filth’ and ‘Ridiculoso’ you’ll need to be one of the lucky ticket holders.