CAPITAL BREWING CO

Origin – Australia. ACT
ABV- 5.8%
Size- 355mL can
Style- Red Ale
For much of its history, Canberra hasn’t enjoyed such of glamorous reputation. We’ve all heard the jokes ‘they spoiled a perfectly good sheep station’, ‘a cemetery with lights’, and a personal favourite of mine from Bill Bryson, who after watching a promotional video about the city when visiting while researching his book Downunder, suggested renaming the campaign: ‘Canberra – Why Wait for Death? But in reality, the capital and biggest-little-city of Australia isn’t so bad. Not only is it surrounded by amazing natural beauties, over the past few years it’s also developed a sensational food, wine, coffee and craft beer culture. And as of mid-2016, Canberra’s population (of 400,000 or so past post-grad students who couldn’t find employment in the private sector!) added Capital Brewing Co to the list of local favourites, already made up by the likes of Bentspoke and Pact Beer. Launched by a group of mates that included the Coombes brothers (Rich and Sam) of Will & Co. coffee fame, along with Tom Hertel and Laurence Kain, the lads behind iconic Canberra venues Honky Tonks and Hippo Co, it took less than 18 months for Canberra’s newest craft brewer to put down their own bricks, mortar and lots and lots of stainless steel, ensuring that Capital could be made from that day forth in the capital. And just as any great commonwealth can attribute much of its success to its Prime Minister! …much of Capital’s success can also be credited to head brewer Wade Hurley, formerly of San Diego’s illustrious Green Flash. Aside however from importing head brewers, the team at Capital Brewing Co are all about the homegrown. So, when offered the opportunity to grab some locally grown Cascade hops from the Batlow region hop program for this Evil Eye Red IPA, they jumped at it. And just pull the ring and pour yourself a glass from this 355mL can of goodness you can instantly understand what made them so excited. As you’d expect from the same home as the apple, the Batlow grown cones deliver a treat of a hop forward fruity nose, coming from what is a deep copper pour. At 5.8% abv the flavour is full-bodied, with a nice balance of fruit, toffee (toffee apple?!) and a generous hop bitter finish. With brews this good, it’s not surprising that Canberrans have added to for their love of firecrackers, porn and roundabouts, that of amazing craft beers.

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AKASHA BREWING CO

Origin – Australia. NSW
ABV- 4.4%
Size- 375mL can
Style- New World Lager

Although Akasha may sound similar to Asahi, the good news is their beer couldn’t be any dissimilar to the half-water half-beer profiles from those Japanese billionaires. And that’s exactly what the founder and head brewer Dave Padden has built a reputation on: big, bold, hop-centric ales that stand alone from the crowd. And it’s certainly a reputation that has served him well, given the rise and rise of Akasha Brewing co since they cooked up their first brew not that long ago. It was April 2015 when the former co-founder of Parramatta’s Riverside brewing, teamed up with brother-in-law Wes White and established Akasha via gypsy brewing. By October they pulled open the warehouse doors of their Five Dock brewery and tasting room and by that November a line-up of locals were already queuing along the footpath outside of Sydney’s newest brewhouse to sample the latest beer, grab a southern style food truck burger and shoot a little pool while surrounded by a line-up of shiny new tanks. And while the locals were voting with their feet, it seems the rest of us were casting a ballot too, with beer review website RateBeer last month (Feb2018) announcing Akasha had taken out Australia’s top brewer gong for 2017. And although humbled, it comes as no surprise to Dave or Wes that they are a people’s favourite, after all, listening to what people want in a cold one has been the way they’ve been crafting their beers since day dot. In fact, this craft lager, that has since gone on to become their best-seller, is the result of asking the local publicans what they’d like to see, albeit Dave couldn’t help himself, adding a new-world twist to an old-world style. Whilst it’s brewed using European lager yeast and left to condition (or lager) for several weeks, that’s about the extent of the traditional approach to the Tradewind. Take a big whiff and you’ll notice the passionfruit and citrus punch, the result of a bucket load of Galaxy hops. In the mouth, the far from old-fashioned flavour follows the nose, with the use of little crystal malt adding some sweetness. She finishes perfectly dry, ensuring you’re always left wanting a more. In Nepali and Bengali Akasha means ‘sky’, and I’d go as far as suggesting that if they keep brewing drops this good, it’s the limit for these lads.

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PIONEER BREWING CO

Origin – Australia. NSW
ABV- 5.6%
Size- 375mL can
Style- Amber Ale
I’ve been around the world, a couple of times or maybe more. I’ve seen the sights, I’ve had delights, on every foreign shore. But when my mates all ask me, the place that I adore, I tell them right away. These catchy lyrics may have been penned by John Williamson, but they could also very well be the biography of Pioneer Brewing Co’s Pete and Tamara Gerber. Having seen more than their fair share of foreign shores, and ocean beds for that matter, with Pete working as a subsea oil and gas engineer, it only took the announcement of wife Tamara that they were becoming a young family for the couple to make the decision to return to a place that they adored. While Pete grew up in South Africa, the place they landed on was one close to Tamara’s childhood, the farming property of Bowan Park, some 27km west of Orange in the heart of Regional NSW. Sitting on prime grazing land, they began by sowing oats and barley for their sheep, before beer fanatic and long-time home brewery Pete decided to chase a dream and mix a little lagering with his lambing. With a vision to create a meeting place for the local farming community and mission to source all the necessary ingredients within his own fence line, he set about the project with the determination of shepherd looking for a lost sheep. By early 2017 a 17 hectolitre brewhouse and canning line sat with the confines of a 500 square metre shed, and Pioneer Brewing Co was born. By late October the same year, Pete had created a range of 5 core beers, however, it’s is this Amber Ale that perfectly fulfils Pete’s ‘from the ground to the glass’ undertaking. Pouring a hazy copper colour, the more-than-generous hit from his first season planting hops are perfectly balanced by a big, roasty malt backbone, assumedly derived from barley harvested from up by the gum trees, wheat from out by the plum trees and little rye growing up between a sheep or two and a kangaroo! … all providing a sweet and malty nose. However funny as all that may sound, put it to your lips and you realise it’s no joke. The flavour on the palate begins with a grapefruit hop bitterness, stops in for some toffee and caramel, and arrives at a destination characterised by pine and citrus. I’d love to say she’s best consumed from glass whilst reclined in an old rocking chair on the veranda out the front, but in Pete keeping true to his vision of pioneering community and conversation among fellow farmers, you can jump straight down from the tractor, pull the 360 lid and drink it straight from the can. Now that’s True Blue!

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HOPE XPA

Origin – Australia. NSW.
ABV- 4.8%
Size- 330mL can
Style- American Pale Ale
Many were rightfully sceptical when Michael Hope purchased Hunter Valley’s Rothbury Estate in 2006, paying $9.2 million to owner Fosters, which was getting out of the wine game at the time, and laying down plans to build a live music destination and beer and wine Mecca. And it wasn’t long before 20,000 odd folks were sprawled out on the large grassy amphitheatre soaking up the sun and watching the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac and Bruce Springsteen, all the while drinking some pretty average wine and chugging down some relatively tasteless bright and clear pale ale out of plastic cups by the dozen. Mercifully it seems, for this former pharmacist and businessman, Hope was as much about building Michael’s dreams as cashing in on tourism. Enter stage left Matt Hogan. While no Mick Jagger of the craft brewing world, his stint as a winemaker for De Bortoli and experience as head brewer at William Bull (De Bortoli’s beer brewing arm) provided him with know-how beyond his years, and a creative winemaker’s approach to his brewing methods, mixing innovation with tradition. In 2013 Matt was thrown a second hand 12 hectolitre brewing system that had previously served Murray’s well, and set about the task of transforming a concert caterer pumping out mid-strength ales, to an award-winning brewery. And a transformation of seismic proportions it was. Within a few short years, Matt and the lads were standing in front of packed crowd of bearded hipsters receiving the coveted 2016 CBA Champion Small Brewery Award. As evidence that Hope wasn’t a Hanson -esque one-hit wonder (anyone remember MmmBop?), in 2017 they pick up another 8 CBA medals, including a bronze with this Extra Pale Ale. Filled into a can, the next freshest thing to getting it on tap either at the brewery in the heart of the Hunter Valley or their seaside Brewhouse Café in Nelson Bay, she pours bright, clear and amber. Luckily the appearance is the only aspect this XPA has in common with the former tasteless concert offerings. The nose itself is filled with tropical fruit, citrus and hints of toffee, and while the taste follows the nose, there’s the addition of a sweet malt backbone and punch of hop bitterness. With more character than your average pale ale, and much more sessional than most hard-hitting IPA’s, this XPA is perfect for chilling out on the green while listening to, say, Landslide by Stevie Nicks.

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