Slow Lane Jagged Little Pils, Leann Dearg, Golden Valley & Forest Rabbit

Style
Various Styles As Indicated
ABV
5.0% & 4.5% & 6.5% & 10.5%

Now here we have an absolutely stellar lineup of Slow Lane beers, just in time for your little Easter break. Opening up my package and reading each of the four labels had the pleasure centre of my brain glowing so bright that not even mud from the Central American rainforest could have hidden me from the thermal vision of any passing Predators.

Starting out we have two patented Slow Lane classic styles followed by homegrown versions of two specific beers that form no small part of Belgian cultural heritage.

First brewed in the 1870s, around 30 years after the original Czech pilsner, German pilsners are the blueprint for the vast majority of pale lagers produced around the world since the start of the 20th century. What sets the German apart from the Czech is mostly due to regional differences in malt, hops and water hardness. Simply put, it’s a paler, more bitter lager.

There are plenty of more traditional German pilsners around these days but, jeez, you’d be struggling to find a more robust version than Jagged Little Pils. Pouring a hazy straw with a voluminous white head, the noble Hallertau hop is in a rush to leap up your nostrils and lay a fresh, spicy, floral bouquet. With the formalities out of the way, we can get down to business with a lean, toasted cracker malt base that really sets you up for a biting and long-lasting bitterness. While fresh, this is going to be a more hop forward version than you’d likely see elsewhere and it’s all the better for it. It also finishes like a brand new set of white sheets.

For most of us, our only exposure to Irish red ales is through the weirdly ubiquitous nitrogenated Kilkenny, brewed by Guinness owners Diageo. Quite why Australia and Canada are the only countries in the world where Kilkenny is popular is a mystery but, in any event, we’re talking about a proper Irish red ale here… One brewed in Botany.

The aptly named Leann Dearg (gaelic for red ale) is, if you can believe it, a very red beer. It’s always been like magic to me that you can just add a tiny amount of unmalted barley that’s been roasted until almost black to a pale mash and suddenly you’ve got yourself a beautiful ruby red beer. The aroma is a combination of nutty malt, earthy lavender, and esters. For such a simple malt base and a low ABV, the malt flavour of this beer is remarkably complex. Notes of toasted cereal, berries, caramel and finally choc-orange as it warms. The bitterness is mild and soft while remaining super-clean and expertly quaffable. A truly wonderful drinking experience all round.

Arguably one of the most famous and distinctive beers not just in Belgium but all of Europe, Orval is an institution. Brewed by the trappist Brasserie d’Orval for 93 years, this strong, blonde, Bretted pale ale is a unique style all on its own. Embarking on an homage to Orval is a daunting undertaking, but if anyone is qualified to give it a red hot crack, it’s Slow Lane.

One of the key identifying factors of Orval is a tendency for the head to fill and overflow any glass into which you decide to pour it. Golden Valley is still young so it isn’t quite at that point yet, but it’s a very lively pour nonetheless on top of a beer the colour of burnt umber. First whiff contains the unmistakably Belgian yeast esters and phenols with an increasing character of overripe fruit and herbal hops. On the palate are caramel malts, a faint hint of Vegemite, white pepper, just a touch of acidity and a carbonic bite. It’s amazingly light-bodied and easydrinking with a subtle bitterness that finishes with a Bretty funk – a suggestion at what might be with a bit more age. I can’t say I’ve ever knowingly had a fresh Orval, but it’s very cool to have something so similar and yet distinct in its own right. I cannot wait to get some more and cellar it!

I’m not saying the previous three beers were in any way devoid of joy, but the last of this quartet is the most joyous of the bunch. It’s a stone cold fact: Easter rules. Who bloody doesn’t love a four-day weekend and choccy eggs? Forest Rabbit is Slow Lane’s take on De Dolle Boskeun, a passbier brewed specifically for Easter each year. I’m not sure why Easter calls for something that is basically a big, dark tripel, but there’s almost nothing that goes better with a nice hot crossy and butter.

Firstly, the label for Forest Rabbit is a delight. Secondly, I reckon you could smell the Belgian-ness of this beer from 20 metres. This deep rust-coloured liquid packs more bubblegum than a crate of Hubba Bubba. If you can extricate yourself from the gum, there’s an additional treat of sugar candy, sweet malt and pear esters. Caramelised malt dominates the base notes on the palate with a rounded brown sugar sweetness, cherry, plum, dried fruit and vanilla. It’s big, warm, spicy and a marvellous Easter treat.

Judd Owen

Published March 21, 2024

Name
Slow Lane Brewing
Address

30 Byrnes Street
Botany
NSW 2019

Phone
(02) 9121 6279
Open Hours

Friday: 5pm to 9pm
Saturday: midday to 9pm
Sunday: midday to 7pm

Lallemand May 2024 B
Fresh Harvest Frenchies 2024

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