With Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania in the bag, we're coming towards the end of our Best New Beers of 2015 state-by-state roundups. This one is a little different from the others in that it comes from a territory and also that the panel has presented a top five rather than ten, given there are just four brewing companies to choose from at present. That said, they snuck in another five as honourable mentions so it's kind of a ten anyway...
No longer a public servant backwater, Canberra has become a vibrant and engaging city. New residential, shopping and entertainment precincts are popping up around town, and it's no coincidence that evolution such as this has also contributed to a further opening of the craft beer scene throughout the ACT.
Local publican Marc Grainger, founder of the award winning Transit Bar, earlier this year started Pact Beer Co with 2014 Australian Amateur Brewing Completion Champion Brewer Kevin Hingston. With four beers and a collaboration brew with Shenanigans Brewery already under their belt, it's a company that's going from strength to strength.
Richard Watkins and Tracy Margrain, owners of BentSpoke Brewing Co, bounded through their first 12 months of operation unabated. With 18 taps to fill, they continue to develop a range of exciting brews, including the Cluster 16 Belgian Quadrupel, the herb styled Kernel beer and the raspberry and peppermint infused Frenzy. What's more, they recently announced plans for a second site that will contain a larger production brewery, canning line and a family-friendly venue.
It's been almost 12 months since the Wig & Pen, Canberra's iconic brewpub, opened in its new location within the grounds of the prestigious Australian National University (ANU). The pub continues to be a hangout for both beer aficionados and students alike.
Meanwhile, in Canberra's industrial hub of Fyshwick, Christoph Zierholz and his brewery of the same name continue to offer up new brews for Canberra residents. Their latest is The King's Pale Ale, which is being poured at Canberra's well known King O'Malley's pub.
Anyway, onto the top beers of the year from Canberra:
BentSpoke Brewing Co – Cluster 16 (16.8 percent ABV)
Sweet syrupy candied banana! At 16 percent plus, the boozy warmth of this Belgian Quad hits you in the chest like a warm hug from grandma!
Pact Beer Co – Mt Tennent Pale Ale (5.4 percent ABV)
This pale ale has stormed its way into the hearts and minds of Canberrans with tropical fruit notes and tight, punchy lemon flavours.
Pact Beer Co – Brickworks Brown Ale (5.6 percent ABV)
Sweet caramel malt flavours are superbly backed by a subtle, hoppy flavour, creating possibly the most well rounded beer by these guys so far.
BentSpoke Brewing Co – Dérailleur IPA (8.4 percent ABV)
This American style IPA packs a surprising punch, while doing a good job of masking its more than 8 percent alcohol. Not overly bitter but extremely session-able (and, thus, dangerous).
BentSpoke Brewing Co – Ned's Ale (5.5 percent ABV)
This interesting beer has a simplicity about it that seems to sit well with beer lovers. Stone fruit flavours and a gentle hop profile lends itself well to the subtle maltiness of the brew.
- Wig & Pen – Duncan! Gose (3.9 percent ABV)
- BentSpoke Brewing Co – Canberra Bitter (3.9 percent ABV)
- Wig & Pen – Ich Bin Ein Berliner Weisse (3.5 percent ABV)
- Zierholz Brewery – The King's Pale Ale (5.4 percent ABV)
- Pact Beer Co – 42.2 Summer Ale (4.2 percent ABV)
About the author: Adrian Moran is bar manager of The Durham Castle Arms, Kingston, and has more than 10 years experience in the hospitality industry. He was joined on the panel by Drew Sculthorpe AKA The Thirsty Hop and Grant Lukins, who you can find documenting his beer adventures online here.
Don't forget to vote in the GABS (née Local Taphouse) Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Beers poll before it closes too.