BIG SHED BREWING CO KOL SCHISEL

Origin – Australia. South Aust.
ABV- 4.2%
Size- 330mL bottle
Style- Kolsch
In 1996, a shed was built with the aim to promote social interaction and to increase the quality of life for blokes. The slogan above the bar was ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’, as in “Men don’t talk face to face, they talk shoulder to shoulder”. That movement was to become known as Men’s Shed. The story behind Big Shed Brewing Concern isn’t too dissimilar. Mates Jason Harris and Craig Basford started brewing in a farming shed in SA’s Barossa Valley in 2002 with the aim to increase the quality of their life and create social interaction with their family and friends. And they did such a great job of that task as amateur home brewers, they decided to go pro. Yet rather than leaving behind the desire to promote social interaction, they built on it, or more accurately built it- a big shed in Adelaide’s Royal Park consisting of a communal brewery. A place where the lads could commercially brew a few batches and also offer it up to other South Australian brewers looking for a shed to mix their own. Not only could they give a leg up to others in the craft beer community, getting some rent money to help keep the bank man at bay between brews was remarkably handy. Steadily the Big Shed was filled with tenants, most notably the Mismatch Brewing Company. All the while Jason and Craig began establishing the Big Shed brand in its own right and in 2014 they launched the first of their core range, the American brown ale, FrankenBROWN. Fast forward four years and a shed load of CBA awards, and the Big Shed is getting bigger….much bigger! In February 2018 the lads unveiled a plan backed the State Gov to move into a 3500sq m premises that will contain a new 50-hectolitre system, increasing production from 225,000L per year to several million. And as is the case today, you can be sure that one of the beers rattling down those new lines will be this Kol sChisel. Big Shed’s take on the German Kolsch, which has proven popular from the ocean to the Silver City, is as Craig describes it, ‘an ale masquerading as a lager’. Pour a glass from the bottle (on which you can spot Jimmy Barnes’ headband and microphone on a bird of prey) and it’s the spicy and fruity nose that first impresses. Yet unlike the rockers from their hometown, put her to your lips and the flavour is mild and earthy, with a sweet malt finish and a balancing bitterness. I dare say that if word of this beer spreads, that at 4.2% you can drink shoulder to shoulder with mates all afternoon, there’ll be panic to get on the last plane out of Sydney…heading for SA!

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PACT BEER LAGER

Origin – Australia. Victoria
ABV- 5.4%
Size- 330mL bottle
Style- Lager
The wind was too strong to wind the sail. You really have to marvel at the lunacy of the English language. Why is it that writers write but hammers don’t ham! Then there’s the case of the same meaning, but different words to describe it. Take something agreed upon. Aside, of course, an agreement, or perhaps a gentlemen’s agreement, it could be labelled a treaty, a truce, a contract, a covenant or a pact. Or if it’s little secretive and a tiny bit illegal, the same thing can even be called collusion. And from the home of ambiguous words, the nation’s political capital comes one; Pact. Although not quite as infamous as Bob Hawke’s legendary ‘By 1990, no Australian child will be living in poverty’, the name came about as the result of a one-liner by founder Kevin Hingston in 2015, ‘today we make a blood pact to open a successful brewing company that never compromises on creativity’. Given a few years prior, Kevin’s only claim to fame was that he was social secretary of Canberra’s homebrews club, it could have been fair to group the likelihood of that happening along with Bob’s bold statement. But just like Bob and his legendary yard glass record, Hingston also had an ace up his sleeve- he REALLY knew how to homebrew. In fact, he was so good that after only two years in the game he took home the nation’s highest amateur prize. And so, just like any thirsty soldier who refused to desert his beer in the desert, in a tiny kitchen in Canberra a pact was made to never desert that pact that was made! And for the trio of Kevin, Marc Grainger and Tim Osbourne there’s been no looking back. And despite Kevin boasting about having never brewed the same homebrew, twice the trio has been quick to temper their pact on creativity. Rather than every mix resulting in a new quirky flavour, they’ve learnt to walk the tightrope of being creative while still brewing beers with wide appeal. Which describes this L Yeah. The lads have essentially taken the yellow tasteless swill that the likes of Bob and your dad used to drink and added a whole bunch of ‘hell yeah’ to it. Albeit it looks like a typical lager, put it to your nose and the grassy aroma from the Loral hops (the L in L Yeah) give the first indication that something more is up. A swill is full of melon bursts, zesty citrus and the slightest touch of earthy cacao. Finishing equal parts crisp and hoppy, I can understand why she picked up a silver at this year’s AIBA’s. Which is more than I can say for why quicksand works slowly or why boxing rings are square!

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BRUSSELS BEER PROJECT

Origin – Belgium. Brussels
ABV- 4.7%
Size- 330mL bottle
Style- IPA
In 2012, a few lads with an idea to produce a new smartwatch jumped on to the crowdsourcing platform Kickstarter with the hope of raising $100,000 in exchange for a prototype. In the first hour, they raised over $1 million, with the project eventually raising $10.3 million, making it one of the most-funded in Kickstarter’s history. And that’s no isolated case. Last year it was estimated that worldwide over $34 billion USD was raised this way. Therefore, it was only a matter of time before someone in the craft beer world jumped on the bandwagon. And those somebodies were Olivier de Brauwere and Sébastien Morvan, two Belgium college buddies. Their winning formula to stand out from the crowdfunding crowd was a simple concept- Beer for Life. The catchy pitch guaranteed twelve beers per year (for life) in exchange for a one-off payment. Needless to say, there was just a ‘little’ interest. The funding from beer-fans-come-investors not only helped them set up their office and microbrewery in a space that previously housed the famous Brasserie la Verger Ver brewery between 1812-1914, there was enough left-over to start brewing. But for Olivier and Sébastie, getting fans to hand over their hard-earned was just the start of the Brussels Beer Project. The next step was the co-development of the beers. Through a member tasting program, the lads developed, tweaked and refined a bunch of recipes that lead to the creation of their first beer, a Delta IPA (the recipes that didn’t make the cut were aptly named Alpha, Beta and Gamma!). For their second the lads dialled it up another notch. This time creating four new prototypes, Red, Yellow, Mauve and Green. Following private tastings in some of Brussels’ best cafés and restaurants and a ‘grand final’ tasting event which gathered over 2,000 beer lovers at Halles St Géry (aka the Lourve of Brussels!), this Red was the clear winner. The community then chose the name Red My Lips to fit with the seductive nature of the beer. And flirtatious this little red is. The 4-hop mix dominated by Hull and Simcoe delivers a nose of tropical fruits and floral spices, and while the flavour follows the nose, there’s the additional hint of blood orange and caramel malt. Unlike a typical Aussie IPA dominated by a hoppy bitterness, this Belgian styled sessionable is true to its Lambic heritage, serving up a fruit driven bitterness. She won’t kickstart your heart, but I’d happily invest a few bucks to get my hands on a second.

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OSKAR BLUES HOTBOX COFFEE IPA

Origin – United States of America
ABV- 7.2%
Size- 355mL can
Style- IPA

There’s always plenty of talk about global beer consumption, which is not surprising given we drink just over 200 billion tinnies every year. With a population of 7.8 billion, that’s a tidy figured. But a less know consumption figure is our morning drink of choice, coffee. Worldwide we sip our way through a fraction under 10 billion expressos, cappuccinos, macchiatos and flat whites. That means we’re stopping for 1 coffee for every 20 beers we enjoy. Now it may have been Travis Kalanick, the founder of Uber, that said out loud ‘Every problem has a solution. You just have to be creative enough to find it’, however, I’m sure it’s exactly what Tim Matthews, the head brewer of Oskar Blues was thinking when they came up with the plan to launch a beer brewed using coffee beans. I’m reliably told during the brainstorming session the words ‘problem-why do we need to stop a for coffee’ were scrawled across the top of a whiteboard. And what a creative, obvious and remarkably tasty solution it was from Tim and the team at Oskar Blues who brought you the souped-up Dale’s Pale Ale. And while it’s not only Tim who devised a plan to call upon coffee’s bold, rich flavours in an imperial stout or porter, in the release of the Hotbox Coffee Porter (we’ve seen plenty of collaborations between craft brewers and artisan coffee roasters) he is the only one who’s taken coffee-infused beer to another level, proving it can work in lighter styles of beer as well, such as the case with this Hotbox Coffee IPA. Word is that after a Simcoe-heavy IPA is brewed and fermented, it’s blended with a cold-brew extract made exclusively from Ethiopian beans by Hotbox Coffee, which just so happens to roast their beans at the same Oskar Blues’ facility. Imagine drinking a carbonated, citrus-and-cherry-forward cold brew coffee with a soft, lingering bitterness at the end- that’s what you get in this golden coloured Hotbox. It plays up those fruity notes of the coffee while never letting you forget that you’re sipping away on an IPA, with citrusy hops and sharp bitter finish. I’d seriously consider waking up with a glass of this, though at 7.2 percent alcohol by volume, I’d save it for a day when I didn’t have to rush to work. In case you were wondering, it’s the Czechs who take home the crown seal for the world’s biggest beer drinkers, knocking back 142.4 litres per person each year …that’s the equivalent of 250 pints – or one every 35 hours!

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SIERRA NEVADA PALE ALE

Origin – United States of America
ABV- 5.6%
Size- 473mL can
Style- Pale Ale
This XXXL 16 fl oz can of Sierra’s flagship Pale Ale is the perfect representation of the brewery itself. Big, bold, bright and enduring. It was 1979 when Les Grossman and Paul Camusi expanded their home brewing hobby into a commercial operation (I use the word ‘commercial’ somewhat loosely!), launching an American craft beer movement that changed the taste buds of millions, and started an entirely different conversation about beer. And that lubricant for conversation was the now iconic green labelled Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. In year one the output of the SNPA was a mere 30 barrels per week. Today the 60,000 barrels produced can barely keep up with the demand of the world’s best-selling craft beer, available in all 50 states of the US and 17 foreign countries. And while over the course of almost four decades, both Sierra and the flagship SNPA have evolved from an industry outlier to a bottlo standard, both have continued to maintaining fierce allegiance among aficionados, seemingly being one of a few breweries that avoided the ‘that band got too big and now they suck’ syndrome. This high-wire act of mainstream appeal and cult-like status is particularly remarkable when you consider the forces at play in today’s beer market: a fickle consumer base that’s constantly chasing the next wave and, a bearded hipster industry where flagships are rapidly giving way to the always-new portfolio of the weird the wacky and the wonderful. So what’s in the secret recipes from the likes of Les Grossman and Colonel Sanders that keeps us coming back for more? I have my own ideas about the chicken, but Les isn’t quite as secretive, openly sharing that the magic is in the generous addition of Cascade hops. Tear open this tinny and you can’t miss the effect they have on the nose, that dominant pine and citrus aroma. They are also the fairy-tale in the flavour, serving up an unfussy and well-balanced enough to drink often, but complex enough to satisfy sophisticated palates, profile. It may well be the beer your dad drank, however, if the past and current popularity is anything to go by, I’d suggest it will also be the beer your grandson will be drinking a few decades from now.

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