If you were asked to come up with an example of a cult beer in Australia, La Sirène's Praline would fit the bill. Thrust into the limelight by its success at GABS 2014, the Belgian style stout featuring organic vanilla pods, cacao nibs and hazelnuts helped bring the Alphington brewery to the attention of many local drinkers. But it's also been something of a millstone around their necks; attend a La Sirène event and, if it features, it's likely to be with a caveat as it's the only beer in their lineup not brewed with the sort of techniques and cultures found in all the others.
As such, it's one that's long felt like something of an anomaly or imposter to the brewery team: the odd one out, the black sheep – but one they know plenty of drinkers love and seek out. And now they've found a solution: keep it in the lineup but brew it in the manner of their other farmhouse ales – open fermentation and all.
It's a move that's changed the character quite considerably, something that will likely irk some fans – but a risk they're happy to take. On the nose, it's a relatively subtle evolution; I picked up some blueberry character alongside the rich dark malts and creamy nuttiness. On the palate, however, it's more distinct: while the body remains full, there's a potent, cleansing acidity that moves the beer into sour stout territory, replacing some of the OG beer's decadent weight with a refreshing swoop.
The result is a beer that fits more seamlessly into the contemporary La Sirène family. That said, don't expect this to be the end game. Having taken the leap to get the beer here after years of pondering Praline's future, Costa Nikias says he'll be playing around with the balance between its past and its present in future batches.
- Sour Stout