HAIRYMAN POP ALE

Origin – NSW. Sydney
ABV- 4.6%
Size- 375mL can
Style- Random!

We all love to walk down memory lane, as evidenced by the almost 4 million results listed when entering those words on Google. And what is not a love about looking back on when your dad wore Old Spice, your school teacher wore a tie, and, chances are you wore a hyper-coloured t-shirt. But just looking around it seems that Peter Allen was right, everything old is new again. Sydney streets are once again crisscrossed by tram tracks, Rosanne is back on the box after a 21-year hiatus and even the 1950’s crock-pot is back in fashion (FYI- it a slow-cooker kids!). And now to go with that slow-cooked lamb shank you can drink in some nostalgia with this new beer flavour – creaming soda. The Pop Ale was the brainchild of a big kid himself, Andy Orrell, the founder and head brewer of Hairyman. Andy tells me that as a young lad he loved creaming soda so much that rather than doing his homework after school he snuck out on his BMX bike a few times a week and rode down to the milk bar and knocked back a can or two. So, when channelling a flavour for a new beer last month it’s was an obvious choice. But to throw back to that infamous 1977 episode of Happy Days, is this a jump the shark moment? I’d suggest that moment has already come and gone with the rise of sours and Gose ales, (pronounced “Go-zuh btw) which if you ask me taste like spicy sweat, but I’ll let you be the judge. Made from 60 percent malted grain, Simcoe hops, a dash of New Guinea vanilla and few creates of Kirks 1.25L bottles of creaming soda, it’s not unforeseen that she smells like creaming soda and has the same mouthfeel. Perhaps without the bitter backbone, you could be mistaken that it is a soft drink rather than a beer. When I asked Andy how best to drink it- ‘it’s good on ice like a cider, but it’s unbelievably good with a scoop of ice cream for a boozy spider’ he said. Given I’m a good old fashioned honest and direct sort of talker (which I’m told isn’t the way I should be leading the millennials at work!) I’m happy to say that the Pop’s not for me. Though to be fair creaming soda was never my thing, I was a Mellow Yellow boy, but it is drinkable, refreshingly different and comes in an old school…wait for it …375mL can. Oh for the days when life was simple.

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CAVALIER BREWING PILSNER

Origin – Victoria. Melbourne
ABV- 4.5%
Size- 330mL Bottle
Style- Pilsner

The adjective for a cavalier is ‘showing a lack of proper concern’, but that couldn’t be any further from the truth when referring to the sword-bearing lads at Cavalier brewing. Pretty much since the inception of Cavalier in 2011 with their first 100-litre brewing set up, founders Steve Martin and Heath Shirtcliffe have been all about making a difference. However, unlike many, the difference hasn’t only been focused on the flavour profiles of their craft beers or educating Australia’s beer drinking public about better options for conversational lubrication. Indeed, despite their scale, Cavalier Brewing has punched well above its weight when it comes to community support and CSR, something some of the big brewers could certainly sit up and take note of. The finest example, without doubt, their commitment to Cavalier Courage, even in the brewery’s infancy. It was early 2013 when Dr Ian Davis knocked on the door. The avid craft beer lover and up-and-coming medical specialist who had recently been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease wanted to discuss a collaboration with the hope to raise funding and awareness for research into the crippling disease with no cure. It took the lads a millisecond to agree, and the bottled result was such a success that pretty much before it had hit shelves it was sold out. And although six years on the look of the labels have changed, the heart of what the lads are all about remained the same. Likewise, while interesting specials have come and gone, such as the various black coffee IPA collaborations with Proud Mary Coffee, the amazing core range seems to be brewed to perfection, batch after batch. This Pilsner is the embodiment of that. Taking its inspiration from Europe, she pours a pale gold with the foamiest of fluffy white heads. The aroma offers up wafts of pilsner malt and floral, herbal hop aromas. Take a big sip and there’s a perfect amount of spicy hop bitterness delivered by the Czech hops, which are neatly balanced on a sword edge with the sweet malt finish. Notwithstanding that Cavalier is a great name for a craft brewer, I can’t help but think that perhaps a white knight in shining armour is a more apt description.

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WAYWARD BREWING CO FUSAMI

Origin – NSW, Sydney
ABV- 6.3%
Size- 330mL Bottle
Style- Indian Pale Lager

In 1971 a group of former Walt Disney cartoonists took issue with Mickey Mouse. When their complaints fell on deaf ears that the Mickey they knew and loved from Steamboat Willie had been transformed to become a symbol of conformist hypocrisy in American culture, they took things into their own hands. Setting up a “secret” artist’s organisation, The Mouse Liberation Front, they created two issues of an underground comic, in which Mickey and gang got up to a little sex, drugs and rock ‘in roll. It wasn’t long though before the parody comics surfaced and soon ended up on Disney’s boardroom table. With Walt no doubt turning in his grave, predictably a lawsuit was filed. It was a David versus Goliath battle with no fairy tale ending- the MLF was hit with $190,000 in damages and $2 Million in legal fees. Presumably Peter Phillip, the founder of Wayward Brewing Co, wasn’t a comic book fan and had no knowledge of that case when in 2012 he took on multinational brewing giant SAB Miller in a trademark infringement case. The behemoth was convinced that their mega beer brand Haywards sold on the Asian subcontinent would be confused with the little independent craft beer brand of Wayward. The fact that Peter was only a Sydney based gypsy brewer at the time, rolling out 20 kegs per brew didn’t seem to stop them going after him with a threat to take everything. Channelling his inner David, Pete refused to back down or be intimidated by the multiple cease and desist letters and decided to take the fight to Goliath. After a drawn-out two year battle the decision went in his favour and he was free to continue being Wayward. To celebrate his victory, his very next brew was this Indian Pale Lager, which he named FUSAMI Victory. The FUSAMI serves up everything you’d want in an IPA, a nose and mouth full of hops, which head brewer Shaun Blissett has then stacked atop the clean malt characteristics of a pilsner. I’d suggest with all the lagers hitting the shelves right now, the lads were ahead of their time. Now, I’m formally told that the name is a tribute to the FUSAMI tribe of central Asia which supposedly invented beer some 10,000 years ago. But over a jam jar full of Victory late one night at Wayward brewery, nestled in a quiet lane on the border between Annandale and Camperdown, Pete had something else to say…. FU…

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FRECHIES COMET

Origin – NSW, Sydney
ABV- 5.4%
Size- 330mL can
Style- Pale Ale

It was Wilfred Sheed who famously insulted the Frogs when he said ‘if the French were really intelligent they’d speak English’. But in the back streets of Rosebery, in Sydney’s inner south, it’s the French that are having the last laugh as they seduce our English-speaking craft beer lovers to pass on the hop heavy IPA accompanied by a crispy food truck twice fried chicken sandwich, for a chance to savour a complex French Biere De Garde paired with a black Angus rib eye with a tarragon béarnaise! Affectionately known as the Frenchies, the maître d’s responsible for this seduction are the thick-accented Vince de Soyres and Thomas Cauquil, the founders of Frenchies Bistro and Brewery. The pair’s friendship dates back to hospitality school in their homeland, where head chef Thomas discovered a love for terrine and head brewer Vince… well, a love for drinking craft beer. And while Vince was mastering his ‘craft’, and also learning a few things about brewing along the way, Thomas was cooking up a storm in the kitchens of Michelin star restaurants. Inspired by the French explorer Lapérouse who famously sailed into Sydney in 1788 only to discover Cook beat him to it by a few days, the pair hatch a plan and packed their bags, arriving themselves in mid-2014. Following various jobs working in breweries and kitchens up and down the east coast, in 2017 the Frenchies’ installed their brewery and set out the couteau et fourchette’s in their shiny new bistronomy (in other words gastronomy in a bistro setting) and welcomed their first guests. One of the first beers out the door, a seasonal brew, was a tribute to the man that that sparked their interest in a far-away land, Lapérouse. Next up was a core range including a Kolsch, an IPA and this Comet Pale Ale, all designed to be versatile enough for standalone drinking or proper food pairing. Named after the Comet hop, which although a go-to back in 1980’s and now not commonly used, the aroma in the glass is clearly driven by the hops distinctive accent of grapefruit. Despite the flavour profile not being as complex as consommé, there is an outstanding burst of citrus and a bitter earthiness, all bound together with a caramel malt sweetness. With its big and bold flavours it’s best to have this one with some duck pate or a good smelly washed rind cheese. Merci beaucoup Frenchies!

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SIX STRING BREWING TPA

Origin – NSW, Central Coast
ABV- 4.2%
Size- 375mL can
Style- Pale Ale
I’m actually a little disappointed to share that the brewery wasn’t set up by Jimmy, Jody and some guys from school in the summer of sixty-nine. But from what I’m told, school buddies and founders Chris Benson and Adam Klasterka did having bleeding fingers following a three-year battle with planning permission, bureaucracy, council by-laws and even opposition from public figures in their home community of Erina, on the NSW Central Coast, an hours drive north of Sydney. I also have it on good authority that Chris does play six-string which, not surprisingly, is where the brewery got its name. Now unlike most blokes growing up on the Central Coast, rather than reaching for the surfboard wax, Chris was more interested in coding, home brewing and playing base. While it was this love of good music and great beer that now defines his current career, it wasn’t always that way. You see unlike home brewing and playing in a garage band, being an IT guru provides more than a square meal of frozen pizza pockets and Toohey’s New. Thus it was with that bank account full of bitcoins that he built his own commercial-scale brewing fit-out with a 12-tap tasting room, a hip restaurant and a cool bar that takes centre stage, because, well, it pretty much is a stage. And since pulling open the roller door in 2013 Six Strings hasn’t looked back, proving popular with both locals and Sydney day trippers. Yet despite its popularity, there’s a relaxed vibe to the place, a far cry from the drunken raucousness that the objectors had originally feared. It’s a vibe that also flows over into their beers, this Tropical Pale Ale the case in point. Brewed to sit at an approachable midway point between a lager and a regular pale ale, she’s insanely sessionable. Pouring a beautiful mango yellow with a little lacing and very light carbonation the aroma is all pineapple and passionfruit. The flavour also bursts forth with the same characters along with some restrained malt sweetness and a pronounced bitter finish. It might not have been Jimmy, but a few years after opening Adam did quit and was replaced by another of Chris’s school friends, another local Ryan Harries. Both with family still in the area I can only assume after closing hour the lads head back to mama’s porch, crack open a Six String and reflect that these are the best days of their lives.

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ROGUE DEAD GUY ALE

Origin – USA. Oregon
ABV- 6.8%
Size- 355mL can
Style- Helles Bock
There’s no doubt the Mexican’s love a fiesta…and I’m not talking about a few Old El Paso tacos and a Corona or two. Think more along the lines of a full spread of quesadillas, pambazos, huaraches and a full-sized donkey piñata hanging from a tree branch, and you’re getting there. Dating back some 3,000 odd years it was the celebration of Día de Muertos, or the Day of the Dead that set it all in motion- an occasion where the living stopped to remember, celebrate and honour the lives of the deceased. Now, it would be a significant exaggeration to say that they’ve been celebrating it with one of these Rogue Ales for the last 300 centuries, but you are at least tasting a drop that dates back almost three decades. It was 1st November 1990 that Newport Oregon’s Rogue first debuted the Dead Guy Ale, brewing it for a local Tex-Mex to help lubricant conversation on what was this solemn and celebrated day. The German Maibock inspired ale proved so popular that it’s been brewed ever since, becoming an instantly recognised staple of the craft beer world. So much so that when redesigning the label of this 30 something late last year, Rogue simplified the layout to only include the oversize skeleton, with arms crossed and beer in hand, sans branding and description. As further proof that this Dead Guy is alive and kicking, last year it was named Best US beer at the World Beer Awards. So, what makes it so amazing? As crazy as it sounds, it’s not an IPA. After all, amidst the fridge full of over-hopped IPA’s and IIPA’s, it can be nice every now and then to grab a beer with a malt-forward flavour. And it’s that sweet malt driven aroma that is first noticed when pouring this cloudy, reddish-honey colour ale with little to no head. Despite the high 6.8% abv, he’s light in your mouth, with a touch of honey and toffee sweetness up front, that is balanced at the back with a dose of bitter hops. For a craft, notwithstanding its 9-ingredient mix, it’s not overly complicated, which is all part of the appeal. I suggest one thing’s for sure, when this drop final does go to the grave, it may well be a case of he who dies with the most beer awards wins!

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RAVENS IMPERIAL IPA

Origin – Australia. Victoria
ABV- 10%
Size- 330mL bottle
Style- IPA
So, is it art imitates life or life imitates art? In 1997 the 3-eyed raven was printed in the pages of George Martin’s book. In 2011 network HBO brought us Game of Thrones. And in between the two, in early 2003 from a basement of an engineering firm in Thornbury, Ben Pattison and Marcus Cox established their own take on the 3-eyed raven, launching 3 Ravens Brewing Co. And similar to the instant success of the show that’s estimated to cost upwards of $10M to produce each episode, it was only a matter of months before Ben and Marcus were the talk of the town by every inner-city Melbourne hipster. Unfortunately, as the brewery approached its 10th birthday celebrations (with an anniversary beer in the tank) there was a ‘red wedding’ moment between the lads, resulting in a fire sale. Riding into the rescue was WA’s Mash Brewing, which was looking for somewhere to brew its beers on the East Coast (is that classed as south or north of the wall?). Following this Jon Snow style back from the dead moment, the new owners set about pouring cash into the brewery. They start with a rebranding and also installed some new equipment. The move paid off, with 3 Ravens named Champion Small Australian Brewery at the 2014 IBA’s. Since then the investment has continued, as has the collection of silver wear in the trophy cabinet. Like most brewers, 3 Ravens roll out a solid range of core beers, but it’s when they turn their hands to the limited release that things get interesting. Folks still talk about the past favourites such the English style hand pumped British Ale and the Ale Noir – a dark beer aged in French oak barrels previously used for pinot noir. But, sitting high above all of them was a 2016 release of their aggressively hopped and infamous 8% abv double IPA. And two years on, in honour of that nectar of the gods, comes this Imperial IPA- a 10%, 2.6 standard drink, west coast style hop blaster with 70 IBU and over 50ml of hop oil per hectolitre (hint: that’s more hop oil than Tyrion Lannister’s had shags!) Best from the glass, its apricot nose is followed by a sticky fruit salad bowl full of hops in the mouth, all balanced with just the right amount of sweet malt. Life? Art? Who’s to know. I guess 3 Ravens can just be themselves after all everyone else is already taken. Thanks, Oscar.

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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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