MERCHANT BREWING COMPANY SMOOTH PORTER

Origin – Australia, NSW
ABV- 5.6%
Size- 330mL
Style- Porter
Junee in NSW’s south west has been home to a few notable folks, including Canberra Raiders legend and NSW and Australian captain Laurie Daley, and the voice of rugby league himself, Ray ‘Rabbits’ Warren. The latter even has a bronze statue of him erected in the town square. This country town with a population of just over 6,000 can now add to that list of notables, Josh, Dan and Glenn, the 3 mates who grew up together at Junee High School. Jump forward 10 years and the 3 found themselves living together and embarking on their own brewing expedition from the kitchen at a little house in 4 Merchant Street Stanmore (hence the name) and are now behind one of the inner west of Sydney’s newest craft brewers. Merchant Brewing Co now joins an ever increasing number of great craft producers in the area such as the likes of Young Henry’s, Batch Brewing Co and Willie the Boatman just to name a few. Currently, the boys produce a limited range of 4 beers, the Three Toe pale ale, the Earl Pear Blonde ale, a When Sloths Cry Golden ale and this Smooth Sailor Porter. Poured from a bottle with a sloth on the label, which is a throw to their slow brewing philosophy, this old English style brown porter hits the glass black and produces a lingering creamy head. Like many of great dark brews the aroma is dominated by cocoa and caramel, however, hints of a master stroke come with the slight scent of coconut and vanilla, which is fully revealed on the palate. As with the nose, a good swig is dominated by lots of chocolate and caramel toffee. But the real class plays out in the coconut up front, the vanilla beans in the middle and the smooth bitter finish. Although your average sloth only stands 50-70cm tall, should this exciting Sydney based start-up continues to deliver extraordinary brews such as this, I can imagine a day in the not-too-distant future when a traveller heading through Junee will do a double take at the small dog-like bronze statue by Ray Warren’s side!

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ABITA TURBODOG

Origin – United States of America
ABV- 5.5%
Size- 355mL
Style- Dark Ale
Hand crafted by the oldest and largest craft brewer in south eastern USA, this canine themed brew is certainly no mutt! Good mates Jim Patton and Rush Cumming (could the lads have names that sound any more American?) opened the doors of Abita Brewing in Abita Springs, just north of New Orleans, in 1986 well before the modern craft-brewing boom, and they have been producing fine ales with great tales ever since. Their first tale starts with their well-drawn water, which is so pure that it goes straight into the brew kettle saving the need for any purification. They were then certified as the first green brewer in North America following the installation of an energy efficient brew house that uses 70% less energy than traditional methods. The story continues with the over half-a-million dollars they raised for the victims of Hurricane Katrina by brewing a ‘restoration ale’. But if raising a glass to a tall tale or great cause isn’t enough to encourage you to grab a second, the flavour in this small batch brown ale surely will. And you don’t need to take my word for it as when the Turbodog was launched way back in 2005 (when lads actually read magazines) Stuff Magazine awarded it the title of ‘The best beer made in America’. Similar to a porter, she pours a rich dark brown body with just a little tan coloured head. On the nose, there is sweet chocolate, roasted caramel, coffee grounds and a hint of nuts- all courtesy of the pale, caramel and chocolate malts in the brew. The addition of the Willamette hops provide a firm bitterness to balance that big malty backbone, all delivering a flavour profile is rich, sweet and somewhat toffee like. Although it’s well-balanced, you can’t miss the chocolate, roasted malts and slightly nutty flavour on the finish. If a dog is a man’s best friend, then you could do much worse than taking on this Turbodog as your loyal companion.

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STONE BREWING STONE RIPPER

Origin – United State of America
ABV- 5.7%
Size- 330mL
Style- Pale Ale

‘All-time Top Brewery on Planet Earth’ … That would be one heck of an award to win for any brewery, let alone a fully independent one, however, San Diego-based Stone Brewing was awarded this label not once, but twice by BeerAdvocate magazine! Then you can add to that its rating as a ‘world class brewery‘ by the world’s largest beer enthusiast website, RateBeer. Evidence would, therefore, suggest that it’s no fluke that this Stone Ripper is well… a ripper. Stone was founded in ’96 by Greg Koch and Steve Wagner and to this day the lads still 100% own and operate the same brewer, that 21 years on, employs over 1,100 craft beer loving workers and produces almost 400M litres of craft each year, that’s more litres than the lifetime sales of all Rolling Stones albums. Now despite the fact that, one look at the label and you’ll more inclined to think Jack the Ripper than Ripper Rita, pull the ring on this month’s mystery tinny,  take a big swig, and I’m fairly confident your next words will be ‘you little ripper’.  On the pour, it’s a dark copper colour with a big earthy hop aroma, which although in Australia would likely class it as an IPA, this is somewhat characteristic of most US west–coast PA’s.  The mouthful is big on taste with a juicy amount of grapefruit and passion fruit flavours that quickly leads to a long and intense sharply bitter finish, no doubt derived from the dry hopping of the Cascade and Galaxy concoction.  The Rolling Stones greatest hit may have been ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’, but after ‘trying’ a few of these I can’t help but reflect that ‘you get what you need’.

 

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MATSO’S CHILLI BEER

Origin – Australia. WA
ABV- 4.2%
Size- 330mL
Style- Flavoured beer

Now I’ve never fully understood the whole flavoured beer thing. In the early days I tried the Framboise, and more recently I’ve been doing the rounds of the Saisons and Sours. Surely adding something to beer to make it more drinkable should make you realise the base beer is rubbish….and don’t even get me started on the concept of adding a lime to your Corona! …albeit it’s clearly an amazing marketing campaign! So when I stumbled across this chilli-infused beer from Matso’s, I was sceptical at best. Though like the magnetic effect a Corona has on me when holidaying in Fiji, the marketing drew me in, particularly the claim about the chilli properties improving the sex life…not that I’m saying it needs improving but….actually let’s leave that one there. Anyways, I just had to try this WA brewer’s most unusual of beers. Given that Matso’s is located in Broome, I wasn’t really expecting a spicy beer, perhaps a slight hit, but likely something that would quench the thirst while watching the sunset to the west on a balmy night. Boy was I wrong! Even the mild golden colour head and slightly malty aroma gave no indication of what was to come. But half a mouthful later there was more sweat on the forehead than a bloke jogging Cable Beach at midday in December. The sting starts with the lips and the heads quickly to the back of the pallet. At 4.2% there was never going to be a lot of body, but whatever malt or hops that were added to brew certainly struggle to cut the intense chilli flavour. This one will certainly be a conversation starter, however, I doubt you’ll go back for a second, let alone a 6 pack.

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