TWO BIRDS BREWING TACO

Origin – Australia. VIC
ABV- 5.2%
Size- 330mL
Style- Wheat Beer

If a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, then two birds in brewing must be worth more than all the blokes put together! Big call? Perhaps, but no one who knows Danielle Allen or Jayne Lewis would argue about their ability to mix it with the boys in the male-dominated craft beer world. In fact, since Two Birds, the first female owned and operated craft beer company Downunder, took flight in 2011 they have climbed to heady heights. It was in early 2010 that the pair first hatched their plan, on a road trip to some of the USA’s best craft breweries. While many girls may be inclined to shop the fashions of Rodeo Drive, with a background in viniculture and stints working at Little Creatures and Mountain Goat, Jayne was right at home among the mash and fermentation tanks. Having spent the first 18 months with their beers contract brewed, they now have their own brewery, bottling line, and tasting room in the western suburbs of Melbourne, affectionately called Nest. The range on offer has grown from a single Sunset Ale, which put the girls on the map after it won Best Beer at the Wetherspoons Real Ale Festival, to a range of five beers that are brewed all year round, and a bunch of award-winning one-offs. And as evidence that the Sunset wasn’t a fluke, (and a clear demonstration that these ladies, like most others, also love jewellery), the duo took home a swag of gold and silver at the 2016 Australian International Beer Awards including Champion trophy for Medium Australian Brewery, Best Amber for the Sunset Ale, and Gold for this Two Birds Taco. I’m told the inspiration for it came from the time the girls spent in San Diego munching down on tacos, and what originally started out in 2013 as a bit of a one-off gimmick for a festival, quickly became so popular that the pair added it to the core range. Loosely categorised as a wheat beer, it pours cloudy with a spicy hop fragrance dominated by coriander and citrus- not surprising given its fresh ingredients of coriander leaf and lime peel, along with a healthy dose of American Citra and Amarillo hops. With fresh corn poured in by the bag load, the upfront flavour kicks with corn characters, followed by coriander, chilli and citrus. As a random as they sound, and certainly out of place anywhere else, they worked together brilliantly in this light but bright brew. I should say pop and top and grab a pulled pork taco and a bowl of corn chips, but to be honest, for me it pairs perfectly with a spicy Mexican pizza.

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FOUNDERS CENTENNIAL IPA

Origin – United States of America
ABV- 7.2%
Size- 330mL
Style- Indian Pale Ale

Boy, are we glad we found Founders! Describing themselves as ‘beer enthusiasts’ rather than ‘brewers’ these boys from Grand Rapids, Michigan who founded Founders in 1997, and then actually lost money for the following 12 years, now produce 900,000 barrels annually…impressive. What is more impressive is that they are also now rated in the top 100 brewers worldwide and have won more medals than the city has water crossings! History has it that founders and owners Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers, who still clearly remember hand glueing 6 pack cases, turned the place around when they got advice from their bankruptcy lawyers that given they could no longer pay the rent, that they should go out swinging! At the time, having only ever produced run of the mill ambers and pale ales, I’m told that one afternoon over a few beers they agreed “if we’re going to go down, let’s make beers we want to drink.” It’s where the slogan ‘Brewed For Us’ actually came from, and how the brewery’s first hit, the 8.5% Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale, came to be. And there has been no turning back since that moment, with every beer produced now crafted to push the limits of taste; complex, in-your-face ales, huge aromatics, bigger bodies, and tons of flavour. Whether its envelope-pushing craft beers brewed with random yeast strains, or fermentation barrels previously used for Tabasco, nothing is beyond the boundaries. Which makes this 7.2% ABV IPA perfectly suited to that mould. Somewhat surprisingly given its high ABV, this Centennial IPA (which was inspired when one the brewers’ mates ordered a competitors IPA at a birthday party, telling him the Founders IPA was too boring!) is as easy to drink as most sessional IPA’s, which can get you in trouble when ordering a third! Pouring a reddish copper colour, the smell is all citrus and pine notes, with some brown sugar, caramel and tangerine in there too. As far as taste, it is sweet, dry, malty and crisp in well-balanced proportions- impressive for what I assume, given its name, is a single-hopped brew. Now that you’ve found these Founders hold on tight, with 2 standard drinks per tinny, it may make for a wild ride!

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NEW BELGIUM FAT TIRE

Origin – United States of America
ABV- 5.2%
Size- 330mL
Style- Amber Ale

Even though New Belgium Brewing Co. has transformed from a basement brewery to America’s fourth-largest craft brewer, by many it’s still regarded more as a social movement than a brewery. Even the staff dress the part, with flannel, jeans, hoodies, tattoos and piercings all common. Located in Fort Collins, Colorado, an hour’s drive north of Denver, the company started as a result of the founder’s mountain-bike tour through Belgium in 1988, where he fell in love with the country’s broader palette of ingredients (fruits, spices and wonderful yeast strains) used in their beers. Jeff Lebesch, an electrical engineer at the time, returned home and convinced his wife Kim Jordan to open a brewery, the first in the U.S. to make Belgian-style beer. His love of bikes was etched in history, right beside his love of beer, in the form of the red cruiser on the company logo. Although the love between Jeff and Kim didn’t last (the marriage ended and Lebesch left the company in 2001) the lovefest between New Belgium Brewing Co and its 500-odd staff continues; not surprising given every employee receives a branded fat-tire cruiser bike after a year of service and an all-expenses-paid beer tour of Belgium after five. To top that in 2013 Kim Jordan called an all-hands meeting and stunned employees by announcing that the company had been sold. Once the gasps subsided, she told staffers that the envelopes on their chairs contained the identity of the buyer. Inside they found a mirror, Jordan’s way of informing them that they were the new owners of New Belgium through an employee stock-ownership plan! Fat Tire, the first and still their signature brew to this day, is a staple in the USA’s craft beer industry with just shy of 9,000 reviews on rating website Beeradvocate alone – over 2,000 of those, more than 4 out of 5 stars! Almost with a cult status, it’s widely regarded as a gateway for people interested in getting into craft beer due to its easy-going, but absolutely delicious makeup. She pours a beautifully clear copper tone and sniffs of very light malted, nutty, hoppy aroma with a hint of caramel. It tastes much livelier than the simplicity of the nose suggests. Upfront it’s spicy and herbal, but without that hop bitterness that can so often dominate, followed by caramel notes and some floral overtones. I wouldn’t be surprised if the craft geeks object to my love of this beer and its wonderful sense of balance- the toasty, biscuit-like malt flavours coasting in equilibrium with hoppy freshness – but as far as I’m concerned, they can get on their bikes and…

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RIVERSIDE BREWING COMPANY 44 AMBER ALE

Origin – Australia. NSW
ABV- 6.5%
Size- 330mL
Style- Amber AleThe famous Route 66 runs 2,448 miles east-west from Chicago, Ill, to Santa Monica, CA, with incredible stops along the way such as the Grand Canyon, Cadillac Ranch and the Historic Wigman Motel. Head north up Route 1 along the Atlantic Ocean and you’ll take in the Florida Keys and Washington DC’s 14th Street Bridge. But if you ask me, it’s often the road less travelled that results in the most amazing journeys. Although the little-known route 44 only takes in 4 states over 237 miles, and may not feature in Trip Advisors top 10 road trips, the Connecticut section is unforgettable, and you’ll definitely have something to Instagram home about when you stumble across Longhorn Steakhouse in Massachusetts- the steak’s obviously amazing, but the short rib and biscuit combined with a local ale…Boom! And it’s from another road less travelled, the little-known route of North Rocks Road that runs from Bunnings Parramatta to the North Rocks butcher, where you’ll come across Riverside Brewery. Situated amidst a fairly standard-issue industrial area containing trade warehouses, there’s nothing ‘riverside’ about Riverside, aside from perhaps the stormwater drain during a downpour. But venture beyond the roller door of founder Stephen Pan’s microbrewery and you will discover a river of goodness flowing from his 2000L brewing system. Having knocked the cap off his first beer for public consumption in mid-2012, the last five years have been an amazing journey for Stephen and the lads, with what was once a trickle of walk-up sales now a fast-flowing distribution network, including everything from small-town bottle shops to the mass online retailers. And although Riverside launched with a range of 5 core beers, it was the pour of this unfiltered, bottle conditioned 44 Amber Ale that first set the trickle in motion, winning drinkers over with a single sip. Pouring a hazy copper colour, the more-than-generous hit of American Cascade and Centennial hops are perfectly balanced by a big, roasty malt backbone, providing a sweet and malty nose. The flavour journey on the palate begins with a grapefruit hop bitterness, stops in for some toffee and dark chocolate, and arrives at a destination characterised by pine and citrus. Googling amazing Sydney road trips won’t point you towards North Rocks Road, but head out that way and grab yourself a 6 pack of 44’s along with some award-winning snags from the Beef Bullion butcher, and I guarantee it’ll be a journey you’ll not soon forget.

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PIKES BEER CO PILSNER

Origin – Australia. SA
ABV- 4.5%
Size- 330mL
Style- Pilsner
Home of the famous Penfolds Grange (or infamous if you’re a certain former Premier of NSW!), for well over a century now South Australia has been known in drinking circles for its wine growing pedigree. Even with Australian’s biggest family-owned brewer, Coopers, calling Adelaide home, beer hardly got a second glance. However, in the past few years all that’s begun to rapidly change, with the likes of Pirate Life, Barossa Valley Brewing, Vale Ale, Swell, Lobethal Bierhaus, Prancing Pony and Pikes, just to a few of the amazing craft brewers that have put the state of the map for Australian hop heads and SA’s bohemians alike. However, unlike many of SA’s new craft beer start-ups, the foundation stone of Pikes Beer Co. was first laid in 1886 by Henry Pike, who 8 years prior had set sail from Dorset, England, bound for Australia and the new life it offered. Old Henry, a jack of all trades, worked as a carpenter and even tried his hand at undertaking before buying land in Oakland and opening a brewhouse. History has it that old mate had learned about brewing from his mother when he was just a boy as she believed it would be a handy skill later in life- clearly, I’m failing my children and crippling their future by letting them loose on the iPad rather than the homebrew kit! However, after 87 years and several generations, and the once-booming beer house hit the skids and the doors were closed. Although fourth generation Edgar Pike jumped back into the drinks business forming Pike’s Wines in 1984, it wasn’t until 1996 that the lineage of beer was once again kick-started, first through the contract brewing of the Pikes brand by Edgar and his sons, before finally in 2014 bringing the family business back to its spiritual home in the Clare Valley with the establishment of a microbrewery alongside the wineries cellar door. The brewing tradition has also been re-established first hand with Alister Pike on board as an assistant brewer to Brad Nolen, formerly of Gage Roads in WA. And from a traditional beer brewing family comes a traditional European inspired pilsener. She pours a light amber colour, with a nose characterised by a gentle herbal hop aromatic. On the palate, there’s enough to be interesting without being overpowering, with citrus, fruity notes and a touch of malt. In a true sessional style, it finishes clean and crisp with just a hint of bitterness. It’s no Grange, and you’re not likely to remember this bottle in 65 years any more than Barry remembered his ’59, but it’s a quality thirst quencher nevertheless.

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