Origin – Scotland
Style- Indian Pale Ale
In 2006 James Watt quit his day job, moved back in with his parents and teamed up with longtime mate Martin Dickie. The pair pooled their minimal savings, negotiated a £20,000 bank loan, bought a pile of second-hand brewing equipment and rented a dilapidated unit from Aberdeen shire council. The boys first brew was a highly-hopped IPA that they called ‘Brew Punk IPA’, in a throw-back to the way the punk turned the music scene upside down in the early ‘70’s. The story goes that the only thing their first few brews turned was their stomachs. The first batch got contaminated after a phone and a set of car keys ended up in the mash, and the second tasted like plastic after they used a cheap garden hose as a transfer line! The third worked, and in a Cinderella story, a little over a decade on, the independent Brewdog has 2 breweries, 46 brewpubs (both in the UK and internationally), and hundreds-of-thousands of fans. From 2010 onwards some of those fans have even put their money where their mouth is…or where their beer is…or is it both?…by buying shares through Brewdogs ‘Equity for Punks’ crowdfunding scheme. Each share offers discounted beers and an invite to the annual AGM – a wild beer and Punk music festival attended each year by thousands of shareholders. To date, the lads have crowd-sourced a tidy £30m or so! The story of success might be all Disney, but the brand is far from it, and this brew, which is still Brewdog’s biggest seller, is more like Deadpool than the Seven Dwarfs, packing a serious punch. The first sign of an edgy post-modern twist to the traditional IPA style is the light golden colour on the pour. She’s loaded with hops, and although 6 different varieties have been used, it’s the NZ Nelson Sauvin (as used in sav blanc) that delivers the full-on tropical passionfruit and tangerine aroma. Take a big swig and you can literally feel a flavour explosion. Sure, there’s the tropical fruit that the nose gave away, but added to that are bursts of caramel, grapefruit, pineapple and even lychee. The malt takes the edge off the middle palate ever so slightly, before it finishes with more spiky bitterness than Johnny Rotten’s haircut. Forget about searching the woods for prince charming, a swig of this should wake the sleeping beauty in no time!
Origin – Norway
Style- Amber Ale
It’s fair to say that the Norwegians aren’t famous for their beer. It’s likely the reason for the Vikings setting sail in the 8th century to raid the plunder of foreign lands was in search of a decent ale or lager! And thirteen centuries on, the situation still isn’t being helped by a regulation that stops normal outlets in Norway selling alcoholic beverages above 4.7% ABV (anything above that is only sold through state-run alcohol retailers… and the locals in Sydney thought Mike’s lock-out laws were unfair!) Enter Aud Melas and Evan Lewis. She originally grew up in Norway and him in New York, both meeting in California. With a passion for introducing the Norwegians to something more than the boring yellow fizzy lagers that pollute the beer shelves, in 2004 they left the shores of Pacific and move to Flåm, on the southern shores of the Aurland Fjord, some 300km north-west of Oslo. They spent the next few years building a hotel and brew pub using so much timber, driftwood and stone that even the Vikings would have been impressed, and in 2008 introduced the locals to real craft beer. It was hard to keep such a good thing quiet, and before long Aegir (which is a mythological giant of the sea, pronounced ar-jeer) was on the pour from Hammerfest to Lillehammer. In a few short years, they plundered more gold from local and international beer awards than you could toss an axe at. Thus with such an impressive back story, I was expecting an impressive beer. And although it’s surprisingly easy to drink, this amber ale is a little uninspiring. The colour is, well… amber with an aroma of caramel sweetness and malt. Given the use of six different kinds of malt, the flavour is surprisingly thin, with some, but far from enough toffee, raisins and currants, along with a small amount of hop bitterness. It at least finishes better than it starts, with a long sweet and sticky finish. It’s drinkable, however, I very much doubt it would have been the first ale a thirsty seafaring warrior would have been reaching for on his return from months at sea.
Origin – Australia, NSW
Style- Pale ale
Made in Collingwood, Sample Brewery is ‘so’ Melbourne. In fact, the story of Sample’s founders is ‘sooooo’ Melbourne that it has nothing to do with early beginnings in experimental backyard craft brewing. Instead, Vedad Huric begins with a degree in Architecture and Aaron Ollington one in Fine Arts, Photography & Painting. They opened Sample after seeing the opportunity to offer a premium product as an alternative to the increasingly ‘commercial craft’ beers on offer in the laneways of inner city Melbourne. So with that background, it’s not surprising that Vedad tells me their beers are targeted towards today’s design conscious and discerning individuals, which would certainly explain the high sophisticated label design. And given his industry connections, it’s likely you’ll stumble across a Sample brew not only at some of Melbourne’s (and now Sydney’s) coolest little bars and hole-in-the-walls, but also at gallery openings, design exhibitions, and fashion launches. But unlike architecture, photography or fine art, beer isn’t made for looking at but rather for drinking. Luckily when it comes to this Sample Batch No.1 pale ale I’m pleased to say it’s both form and function. As stated on the bottle, this brew is very much true to the style of an American pale, pouring a hazy golden colour in the glass. The haze the result of a bottled brew that is unfiltered and unpasteurised. There is a lovely aroma of caramel, citrus and stone fruit, which in the mouth is complement by a subtle toffee base that is balanced with a malty drive and hoppy bitterness. The body itself is somewhat light and the carbonation is just right. In an interesting twist, rather than the finish dropping off it actually builds right to the end. So when you’re craving a creative epiphany in the form of liquid loveliness, look no further!
Origin – Australia, NSW
Style- Irish Stout
At a time when most great craft beers were only to be found in the likes of Western Australia and Victoria, Jarod and Steve Mitchell made local headlines when they went from thirsty to founders with the creation of a local brew pub 4 Pines. Based only hundreds of metres from the world famous Manly beach, the story goes that the idea was born from a casual conversation between this father and son post surf. It wasn’t long following that 2008 opening that demand led to the setup of a full-scale commercial brewery, and although still less than a decade old, this father and son team have won as many plaudits as thirsty fans. Perhaps their ultimate recognition to date was this brew being named Champion Stout at the 2012 Australian International Beer Awards. Take your first sip and you can understand why! This dry Irish style stout, that presents almost as black as the label itself, is simply the perfect example of the style. Brewed using a complex seven-strong malt lineup, it starts with a generous, long-lasting foamy head and delivers an immediate coffee, cocoa, caramel and liquorice aroma. The taste mimics the nose somewhat, with perhaps a hint of smoke added, all serving up a full-bodied mouth feel. If you think the taste is out of this world, then you’re actually not far from the truth. Researchers from an astronomic company have linked up with 4 Pines to use their Stout for testing in a low gravity environment. While doing “weightless parabolas”, which are designed to simulate space travel, they are testing the taste, drinkability and the effects on the human body of beer at zero gravity. Although Australia doesn’t even have a space program it’s encouraging to see that we’re going to make damn sure we won’t be beaten to the first space-certified beer… Aussie as bro!