There’s no denying it: Australia is now firmly in the grip of a craft beer revolution. While our taste buds might still be a few years behind the Americans’ (we haven’t yet embraced brewing with pig heads, maple syrup and margarita pizza!), we’re fast catching up.
Andy Williamson is the co-founder of BeerBud. This piece has been re-posted with permission.
More than a million of us have given up on the boring, mainstream brands of beer in search of more intense, radical flavours and there are now more than 200 local breweries experimenting with processes and ingredients to whet the Australian appetite.
But the challenge (and part of the charm) with craft beers lies in their exclusivity – they’re often limited release, one-off brews that are notoriously hard to get hold of, and when they’re gone, they’re gone.
So, on my mission to help Aussies drink better beer and at the start of Sydney's Craft Beer Week, I’ve sourced the best of this year’s weird and wonderful brews.
Beginners, tread lightly and keep an open mind. For connoisseurs, lick your lips and crack the top off these beauties...before they vanish.
Nail Clout Stout – Nail Brewing
The envy of craft beer makers across Australia, this legendary black Russian Imperial Stout has a cult following that just gets bigger every year. Clout Stout was first unleashed in 2010 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Nail Brewing, an award-winning WA operation that made global headlines by brewing with water collected from Antarctica. The man behind its success is John Stallwood who puts a new twist on the brew each year. His 2014 creation is insanely good - thick, rich and malty with fruity tones and a chocolaty finish - carefully conditioned for six months in a Perth granny flat (the only place John could find to maintain a temperature of precisely 18°C). Only 600 bottles, all numbered, have been released this year and their ritzy packaging adds to the exclusive feel. But rookies beware. At almost 11% alcohol it’s a 750ml bottle probably best shared.
Taco - Two Birds
Close your eyes and think of Mexico. That’s what Two Birds’ and Perth besties Danielle Allen and Jayne Lewis did when they hatched a plan to inject corn chips, coriander leaf and lime into their hoppy wheat ale. Two Birds is among the few female-owned and operated brewing companies in Australia (now based in Melbourne) and the pair draws inspiration from their adventures around the world. Fans of Taco have been begging Danielle and Jayne to bottle this brew since its draught-only release last year. It’s light, spritzy, easy-drinking, designed to be downed in the hot Aussie sun and the ladies have proven they can well and truly match the boys at their own game.
Dream Date – Burleigh Brewing Co
Who said dessert had to come on a plate? Inspired by sticky date liqueur, this longneck from the Gold Coast seriously hits the sweet spot and is creating a big buzz globally after winning the Silver Medal at the World Beer Championships in Chicago. It’s a dark ale brewed with hundreds of kilos of dates and reminds me a bit of fruitcake with a nutty, peppery finish. Dream Date is a product of Burleigh Brewing’s “Bit On the Side” department that creates limited release brews in collectible, screen-printed, 650ml bottles. Beer nuts might remember their other success stories - Fanny Gertrude’s Bickie Beer, a beer based on Anzac buscuits, or the top shelf coffee lager, Black Giraffe.
Hey Juniper – Killer Sprocket
This bad boy is the brainchild of Melbourne standup comedian Sean Ryan and his doctor wife Andrea who enjoy darker, more alternative pursuits in their spare time. It’s an intensely bitter pale ale with a killer kick, made from the core gin ingredient - juniper berries. It’s the fourth release from Killer Sprocket and has only just been launched at Brisbane’s Beer InCider festival but it’s every bit as good as the maiden Amber Ale and is gaining momentum.
Boris Imperial Stout – Feral Brewing Co.
This dark, brooding Russian Imperial Stout is squid ink black, nudges 12% alcohol and as a beer-lover once said to me “it pours like engine oil”. The founders of Feral Brewing, based in WA, originally set out to create craft beers that were a little on the wild side and Boris doesn’t disappoint. It’s layered with chocolate and coffee and leaves you with a roasty bitterness, brewed using five specialty malts imported from the free economic world. It’s one of Feral’s signature releases and the label alone is enough to make you buy it. It’s best savoured at the end of the night, very, very slowly.