Autumn is a terrific season to be a beer drinker. It might even be the best. In those three months, as the weather moves from warm to cool and the scenery from greens to golds and reds to browns, there are myriad beers to match every mood and colour. Whether it’s March, when the first fragrant green hops are plucked from the bines, or the darker days of May when a rich brown ale might help pave the way towards winter-proper, the autumn change makes for a drinker’s delight, as do the following beers.
Road - Harvest Ale
Wine may have its Beaujolais nouveau but the brewing industry has its hop harvest. Hops are a delicate flower; the moment they’re pulled from the bine their unique bitter flavour and aromatic properties begin deteriorating quickly. In most cases hops are dried, preserving their character so they can be stored and used through the year ahead. But each March, when Australia’s annual harvest typically takes place, a small number of brewers with close proximity to the hop fields get a chance to brew with fresh hops, and Beechworth’s Bridge
Road Brewers have gained a reputation as one of the foremost exponents of the style in Australia. Their Harvest Ale is an otherwise stripped-back ale so that it’s the hops which shine through, particularly in regards to the aroma which is absolutely bursting with tropical fruit. This is the kind of beer which showcases why, when it comes to hops, fresh is best - and serves as a reminder of beer’s true seasonality.
Pines - ESB
Australian brewers may not produce a great deal of Extra Special Bitters, but 4
Pines’ ESB is undoubtedly one of the finest. It used to be available only at the Manly brewpub but was given a wider audience when they decided to release it in bottles, and has hitherto become increasingly popular. It’s pitched as an English-inspired ale and although that’s quite a broad canvas, in this case it means an amber-coloured ale where full malt flavours of caramel and raisin are balanced with a gentle bitterness, and quintessential hop aroma make this as comforting as a warm blanket on a cool evening. If you need further proof that this Extra Special Bitter really is extra special, it picked up the award for Champion Pale Ale at 2014’s inaugural Craft Beer Awards.
& Wood - Jasper Ale
When the cool weather hits, it’s natural for beer drinkers to start reaching for stronger, warming beers to see them through. But what happens when the place you live doesn’t get very cold? Why, you brew a beer like Jasper of course. With all the flavour of a big beer but coming in at only 4.7%, this is a typically flavoursome yet approachable “drink me anytime” effort from the team at Byron Bay’s Stone & Wood Brewing. A mishmash of styles, somewhere in the area between German Altbier, American Amber Ale and English Brown Ale, it really is something of its own. Inspired by the red volcanic soil of the northern NSW hinterland, this red ale leans more heavily towards the malty side, though there’s a noticeable spicy bitterness from the hops which adds a bit of zing. With the immense popularity of their Pacific Ale, you’d wonder if Stone & Wood would have enough time to brew anything else. We can be thankful that they do.
String Brewing - Dark Red IPA
Canned beer in Australia has come a long way in a short time - as little as a year ago you’d have struggled to find a tinnie of anything other than a lager. Now you can get anything from pale ale to hefeweizen to saison - and this, the Dark Red IPA from the Six String Brewing Company on the NSW Central Coast. It’s a deep, deep red ale that’s had plenty of hops added throughout the brewing process, leading to aromatics of citrus and pine and a bitterness that’s aggressive and lingering, but not altogether unwelcome as it’s balanced out nicely by caramel and chocolate malts which add a luscious sweetness. This is a beer that offers plenty and you’ll be quite happy to take it all, not least of which because the can makes it easy to take anywhere.
Peninsula - Brown Ale
Ask the average beer drinker to name two brown ales and you’ll probably be met with “Newcastle Brown Ale”, followed by a long silence. It’s not a popular style (unless, perhaps, you’re in the north of England), though popularity somehow wouldn’t quite seem like the right fit for it anyway. Typically malty, sweet and nourishing, brown ales are far more reliable workhorse-like than attention-seeking. The only problem is Mornington Peninsula’s Brown Ale is far too delicious to keep quiet about, with brewer Andrew ‘AG’ Gow producing a beer that has flourishes of cocoa, chocolate, toffee, nuts and raisins which come, go, then come again with a beautiful softness. Mornington Peninsula’s Pale Ale and IPA, both recently released in cans, are becoming increasingly popular with the masses, while their Russian Imperial Stout is a trophy-winning beast that’s worshipped by serious drinkers. Between them they leave the brown ale, almost as you’d expect, on its own in the shadows. But do give it some attention. You won’t be disappointed.