Even though it’s not a hugely popular style in Australia, Shark Island head brewer James had wanted to brew a bock for a long time. The difficulty was that he wanted to lager it for a minimum of eight weeks, and tank space is a valuable commodity for a brewery. So he kept an eye out for a window in the brewing schedule, and finally saw the opportunity – and actually managed to lager it for 12 weeks in the end.
It only takes one sip for you to be glad he waited to do it properly. This Bock beauty is matte brown (don’t ask me to describe the colour any other way) with red around the edges, and is smoother than a cruise down the autobahn in the newest BMW. It carries its seven malt grain bill with finesse, straddling the complex sweetness of burnt sugar and dark rum, a port wine with that’s less fruity than most, and the dark crispy bits around the edge of sticky date pudding.
The Shark Island team put out a black IPA once in their early days, but even though it was popular with customers, they didn’t get around to revisiting the recipe until 2021. A flurry of five hop varieties – Columbus, Mosaic, Simcoe, Citra and Cashmere – pummels your face with citrus and berry and pine, with a slight ashy character rising and rising until a hard bitter finish leaves you writhing in the dust. When you finally pick yourself up, rest assured that you won’t have to wait years to have this experience again – Shark Island have decided to bring the Black IPA out every winter from now on.
In six years of operation, Shark Island were yet to put out a beer that broke into double digit ABV – until this Imperial Stout came along. It’s a sneaky one, too, with a high alcohol content but low bitterness, smooth malts and hardly any trace of alcohol warmth. If you like the idea of drinking a mug of mocha while absorbing the seductive rhythm of a French jazz trio, this is the beer for you.
Meanwhile, James has threatened to brew this again and age some of it in bourbon barrels. If that isn’t a dangerous suggestion, I don’t know what is.