SOCIAL BANDIT TRIGGERED PALE ALE

Origin – Australia. VIC.
ABV- 4.8%
Size- 330mL bottle
Style- Pale Ale
When most folks think about Melbourne the first few things that come to mind are the laneway coffee shops, secret bars behind non-descript doorways and high-end shopping. If you intend to head out of town you might hear a recommendation or two about visiting Victoria’s wine country or perhaps their alpine ski fields. Few, however, would suggest, let alone even know about the hidden gem that is Victoria’s High-Country Brewery Trail. Weaving a path that extends from the river to the mountains, the trail takes in eight handcrafted, small batch, family-owned breweries with beers as unique as their owners, all made with a passion that often only presents itself when distant from the hustle and bustle of the big smoke. Along with Black Dog (Taminick), King River (King Valley), Blizzard (Dinner Plain), Bridge Road (Beechworth), Bright, Rutherglen, and Sweetwater (Mount Beauty) is Social Bandit Brewing Co, located in Mansfield, some 3 hours northeast of Melbourne. Founders, husband and wife team Jeff and Jeanette Whyte, were far from new to regional Victoria’s brewing scene, having established, operated and sold the former Jamieson Brewery (now Wrong Side Brewing) just down the road before they opened this brewpub and stone baked pizza kitchen in 2015. Word is the idea behind the name came from Jeff’s Robin Hood-style social opposition to the global brewers taking over the craft beer world, albeit, a one slice of pepperoni pizza and cold pale ale at a time type of stand. But if anyone can make a stand and steal sales back from the rich mega-brewers buying up our craft brewers, the man that purchase a 10-hectolitre brewing system that came with instructions in Japanese and put it together himself like a jigsaw puzzle, would be the one. Although a few tourists stroll through the doors at Social Bandit, as you’d expect it’s the locals who have naturally made themselves comfortable, each having their own preference from one of the 12 taps. The Jackie Brown Ale is a winter fav and The Heff a popular warm-weather choice, but it’s this Triggered Pale Ale that is the all-around go to. Much like its owner, the Triggered stands boldly in the face of most other pale ales. The big complex caramel and biscuity malt backbone is balanced perfectly with flavours and aromas of melon and tropical fruit. It’s all then offset with the precise amount of bitterness, ensuring the Mosaic hops don’t overpower the base flavours. So next time you’re up that way, drop in, and if not grab a few bottles from your local. I don’t think Uber eats does pizza delivery up that way, so unless you’re set for a road trip you’re all out of luck on that front!

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HOP NATION THE DAMNED PILSNER

Origin – Australia. VIC.
ABV- 4.8%
Size- 330mL bottle
Style- Pilsner
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying ‘Beer before wine makes you feel fine, wine before beer makes you feel queer’. Well, if it’s true it would certainly explain the somewhat odd and unconventional packaging design on the Hop Nation beers. You see, before Sam Hambour and Duncan Gibson jumped into the craft beer brewing scene in 2014, they spent the best part of their adult lives making and drinking some of the best wines from all over the world. Word has it that the transition to beer was a gradual one, starting out with years of home brewing on the side before setting up the Hop Nation label through gypsy brewing. The lads decided to go all in mid-2016 after a call from some old mates at Sawmill Brewery in NZ who were looking to off-load a brewing system to make way for an expansion. They quickly snapped it up, put it on a boat heading across the ditch and set out to find a home for it. Within a couple of months, they were welcoming patrons into their new set-up, a converted warehouse with a small bar, a few seats and some hip street art in Melbourne’s inner-city suburb of Footscray that was once the site of an old 1880s whale fat candle and wax factory. With a name like Hop Nation and a motto of ‘In Hops We Trust’, it should come as no surprise that the lads are focused on hop-forward beers. The twist is that each small batch brew uses hops from a single-country, creating distinct flavour profiles. The original beer that created all the fuss back in 2014, The Fiend, contains all Aussie hops, The Buzz, a red ale, uses American hops and this new world pilsner, The Damned, has been crafted using New Zealand’s Riwaka and Motueka hops. I’m told that the name and artwork for this pilsner are a throwback to the home of the style, Pilsen in the Czech Republic, a part of the world which is also known for its gothic mythology and blood-thirsty vampires. While the use of traditional pilsner malts provides a classically light and clear appearance, it’s the distinct modern hoppy twist that ensures this is one pilsner that you can sink your fangs into. Lively lime and citrus aromas give way to flavours of citrus and pine, a subtle spiciness and solid hop bitterness. It’s remarkably well balanced, providing this sessional drop with a crisp, dry finish. When it comes to this cracker of a beer from Hop Nation …before wine, after wine, whatever, I’ll drink it anytime!

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QUIET DEEDS VANILLA PORTER

Origin – Australia. SA
ABV- 6.2%
Size- 330mL bottle
Style- Porter
Since made famous by Bon Scott and the Young brothers, I can’t think, let along say out loud, the word ‘deed’ without wanting to bang out the chorus line ‘dirty deeds done dirt cheap’. I’ve always loved the fact that the song, about a bloke who could be called on to perform assorted unsavoury acts to resolve your problems on the cheap, listed a phone number (36-24-36) that actually worked. The next thing that springs to my mind is ‘doing the deed’, which the dictionary describes as ‘to perform an illegal act, ie-The mob boss paid the man to do the deed. Though the urban dictionary best describes what I was thinking when I heard that phrase! So, what about the name Quiet Deeds? I read in an interview with owners and founders David Milstein and Patrick Ale that the name came about in homage to the little-unnoticed things people do such as opening a door for someone. Really! You’d think someone who owned a hip Melbourne based craft brewery with an awesomely appropriate surname like Ale could have come up with something a little more creative. Perhaps the lads should have dialled 36-24-36 to get some ideas? Luckily David and Patrick who started out as beer importers had more business sense than imagination. Not long after getting serious about brewing in 2012 they enticed Bobby Henry, of Vancouver’s legendary craft brewer Parallel 49 fame, to join them, bringing with him his knack for creating clever, innovative and highly drinkable brews. Another wise investment was the 25 hectolitre brewing system, the same size as Stone & Wood’s original. Along with their Brew-Magic pilot setup, the trio has the ability to test, taste, debate and then scale, landing the craft beer world not only the now standard line up of tasty and palatable IPA‘s and PA’s but also funkier innovative offerings such as their Lamington Ale and this Vanilla Porter. Traditionally most folks save the darks for the colder months, but chilled right, a porter can be the perfect post-meal offering for a balmy night. Best served in a glass, this American style porter pours a deep brown colour with a thick creamy head. It boasts a lovely milk chocolate aroma with hints of vanilla, cocoa, and coffee. In the mouth, it shows its class with rich and robust flavours that follow the nose, all balanced by a moderate bitterness and a silky-smooth finish. Although at 6.2% ABV there’s 1.7 standards per stubby, given this Vanilla Porters’ richness, it’s not like that it would have even been the slab that Bon Scott infamously drank!

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PIRATE LIFE THROWBACK IPA

Origin – Australia. SA
ABV- 3.5%
Size- 355mL can
Style- Indian Pale Ale
While most pirates didn’t make much (after all it took a large crew to raid another ship and emerge victoriously, and the costs of maintaining an oceanic fighting force in the era before GPS and Aldi was no cheap task!) there were a few that made almost unfathomable amounts. It’s estimated that before he lost his head in 1718, Edward Teach, aka Captain Blackbeard, was worth more than $12.5billion US in today’s currency. Rather than raping and pillaging the Americas themselves, Blackbeard made a pretty penny by letting the Spanish do so–and then stealing all their loot. Not exactly an honourable trade, but stealing from the genocidal Spanish wasn’t the worst thing he could do to get ahead in life! Another pirate that has recently plundered an estimated unfathomable amount of treasure is this South Australian based brewer Pirate Life, recently acquired by the world’s biggest beer company, Anheuser-Busch InBev. Not a bad loot for the lads who only opened their door a few years ago. And while many in the craft beer world have suggested that owners and founders, captain Jack Cameron and his second mate Jared ‘Red’ Proudfoot, should be made to walk the plank for their ‘sell out’ treachery, at the end of the day if it helps get sensational beers like this Throwback IPA into hands in faraway lands unknown, through AB’s global distribution network, then the world will be a happier place. Now, if you think because she’s a mid-strength you’ll save a little booty of your own, you’d be sadly mistaken, with this Throwback almost twice the price of most mids. To its defence, it is ten times the flavour. Pull the ring on this honey-coloured 3.5% sessional ale and you’re immediately hit by the fruity hops. Take a good swig, and you may not be smashed with a cannonball hit of flavour, but there’s still plenty of passionfruit, melon, and zesty citrus to make things interesting. It’s hoppy throughout, as a modern IPA should be, and finishes with a bitterness that leaves you in no doubt you’ve had a beer with a little heave-ho. All that, and you could enjoy more than a few and still not be three sheets to the wind! Yo ho ho.

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