“Here then, you have a beer that’s still crisp and refreshing but which brings with it aromatics reminiscent of a storm in a fruit bowl.”
As summer rolls around, the vast majority of Australian beer drinkers will be reaching for an ice cold lager to sate their thirst. And with the rapid growth of the country’s craft brewing industry and its fondness for ales, there are an increasing number of interesting options to keep you company over the warmer months.
From the fresh and fruity to the highly hopped, magnificently malty or wonderfully wheaty, there are beers for every taste and occasion. In fact, in the history of Australian beer, drinkers have never been more spoiled for choice, so why not celebrate by trying something a little different?
None of the following seven beers are extreme, but they are all extremely good.
Stone & Wood - Pacific Ale
If there’s one beer in Australia that’s managed to capture the spirit of where it’s brewed, it’s the Pacific Ale from Stone & Wood. The beer is brewed in Byron Bay, a little piece of paradise on the NSW Pacific Coast that’s blessed with sun, sand, surf and a laid-back vibe. When Brad Rogers, Jamie Cook and Ross Jurisich left careers with one of Australia’s largest brewers to start a craft brewery there, the environment proved the catalyst for the creation of a modern Aussie classic. Using all-Australian ingredients, the Pacific Ale packs a huge aroma of passionfruit and citrus while remaining crisp, light and full of flavour - just the kind of thing you might want to throw down after a hard day amongst the waves. This is a freakishly enjoyable beer that couldn’t be more perfect for summer days.
Feral - Hop Hog
The Feral Brewing Company, from the Swan Valley in Western Australia, is widely regarded as one of the country’s best breweries - and for good reason. From top to bottom, their expansive range is packed with interesting beers made to the exacting standards of head brewer Brendan Varis. But no Feral beer carries quite the same aura as their Hop Hog. Champion Ale, Critic’s Choice, People’s Choice - there’s scarcely a major Australian beer award in recent years it hasn’t won. The beer itself is a US-inspired Pale Ale, meaning it’s aggressively hopped and carries a robust bitterness. It may be a notable step up in flavour from the kinds of beer most Australians have been brought up with, but once you try it you’ll regret not having done so sooner.
Two Birds - Sunset Ale
This is a beer that started under the skies of Western Australia. When friends Jayne Lewis and Danielle Allen moved to the East Coast to launch Two Birds Brewing in earnest, they carried with them fond memories of watching sunsets over Perth. The beer, named and coloured by those experiences, is a personal link back to the west which we all get to enjoy. Much of the character of this red ale is derived from malt which gives the beer full and smooth toffee flavours, while the hops offer up a fresh and fruity burst. To get the most out of this beer, crack it open as the sun goes down and sip it slowly to allow the fullness of the malt characters to develop. By the time darkness falls, you’ll be sitting pretty.
Moo Brew - Hefeweizen
Before you open a bottle of Moo Brew Hefeweizen, you get the feeling you’re in for something a little bit special. The Tasmanian brewery’s unique packaging oozes class which the beer itself more than matches. A good Hefeweizen is characterised by a cloudy appearance, distinct yeast-driven aromas of banana and clove and a creamy mouthfeel. The Moo Brew Hefe delivers these in spades - enough to win the trophy for Best Wheat Beer at the 2014 Australian International Beer Awards (AIBA), one of the largest beer competitions in the world. And that tells you pretty much everything you need to know; that this is as good an interpretation of a classic German wheat beer as you’ll find Down Under.
Murray’s - Punch & Judy’s
British ales are often unfairly maligned Down Under for being little more than flat and warm. But there are plenty of reasons that style of beer has survived centuries, not least of which is that they manage to pack loads of flavour into a relatively low alcohol percentage. Murray’s Punch & Judy’s is a great local example of just that, with plenty of nutty and caramel malt flavours squeezed into just 3.9% abv. It may run counter to Australia’s preference for fizzy lager served ice cold, but P&J is a beer well worth exploring as it pairs beautifully with many foods. And while you don’t have to let it go flat, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to let it warm just a little.
Knappstein - Lager
The Knappstein Lager may be based on the famous lagers of Bavaria, but that’s arguably where the association begins and end. This beer was conceived in South Australia’s Clare Valley - a region far more famous for wine than anything to do with beer - and it was this setting which prompted the idea to create something a beer that shared characters of wine. This has been achieved mainly thanks to the Nelson Sauvin hop, a variety grown in New Zealand that has flavours and aromas commonly associated with Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc; think lychee, grape and gooseberry. Here then, you have a beer that’s still crisp and refreshing but which brings with it aromatics reminiscent of a storm in a fruit bowl. Unique and interesting, this is lager but probably not as you know it.
Little Creatures – Rogers’
The Little Creatures Pale Ale is iconic, legendary and has done more than most any beer in the country to challenge and change what Australians think of beer. So spare a thought for its little brother, Rogers’, which is forced to play in the shadows while its sibling hogs the limelight. In fact, spare more than a thought and give it some serious attention because Rogers’ is a lovely beer. It’s an amber ale which relies on malt to bring out its key flavours of caramel and toffee. But the best part is that Rogers’ is a mid-strength. All that flavour gets packed into a paltry 3.8% abv, making it a perfect summer choice as you’ve always got the option of enjoying a couple more.
What’s your summer beer list look like? If you need a starting point, take a look at Vintage Cellars’ range of beers.