If there's one accusation you'd never get to stick with Westside Ale Works, it's that they don't brew enough different beers. I mean, this is a brewery where they typically have 20 taps pouring their own beers. That's not all, however, as one of their brewers, Ben Sewell, also brews and releases beers under the Ida Pruul banner from their South Melbourne home. And if you want some insight into what the two operations get up to when the mercury is sliding, well...
Let's start with two from the host brewery, shall we? Ryes N' Shine is an oatmeal rye stout that punches well above its 6.5 percent ABV. Visually, it's soooo dense and comes topped with a solid and persistent brown head. Figgy, dark fruits lead the way with toasted biscuits and rye spice in their wake before the roast comes through in cahoots with no little bitterness, albeit wrapped in an oily, molasses-flavoured finish.
There's some of that figgy dark fruit character to be found in the 2022 edition of Dan's Self Doubt Stout too, a beer that leaves you in no doubt it's been oaked with American bourbon thanks to a prominent bourbon / toasted coconut edge to proceedings. Sweet, spicy malt liqueur flavours run through the thick, dark chocolate body of another beer that's fulsome and palate-smothering – a "little left in the tank" sort of a big stout.
Moving to Ida Pruul and Chimera is a blend of their barrel-aged golden, bronze and dark wild ales. It pours with a lively fizzing head that’s soon gone to leave a murky, deep brown liquid from which I picked up aromas of small batch cola and a deeper, older, barrel-aged malt sweetness reminiscent of walking through the cellars of a fortified wine maker, or maybe an oud bruin. I have to say, merely taking a sniff doesn’t prepare you for the bracing sourness and acidity that follows and requires some palate reset before you're ready to enjoy the quenching dark fruits and, again, cola like sweetness that heralds a slightly viscous finish.
Talking of taking a sniff, I reckon I could happily sit for an hour with my nose in a glass of Ida Pruul's Barrel-Aged Barley Wine. Aged in ex-rye whiskey barrels from The Gospel in Melbourne then finished on Tawny-soaked oak staves, aromas don’t come much fuller and fatter than this: it's like a rich, dense cake batter awash with toffee and stewed berries, with creamy oak enhancing the experience. The deep auburn colour does it no harm either, and the fact it's rich as a brandy snap to taste seems to indicate it's best shared from a snifter post-dinner.
That the two Westside beers here got AIBA golds last month (as did Ida Pruul's 2022 Imperial Stout which I forgot to pick up) and the barley wine a silver is no surprise. Bloody lovely stuff.
Published June 7, 2022 2022-06-07 00:00:00