- June 2013
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- August 2010
- July 2010
- June 2010
- May 2010
- April 2010
- March 2010
- February 2010
- January 2010
Category Archives: Beer review
Monteith’s Autumn Amber Ale 330ml $2.75 Monteith’s offers the warmth and subtle, coffee-like flavours of roast barley malt, with the special fruity lift of ale and attractive hops. Green bullet hops provide the bitterness that offsets the malt sweetness. And Motueka hops, added late in the brewing process, give the aromatic lift.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2013 First published 29 May 2013 in The Canberra Times
In 1988 Chuck Hahn carted from Sydney a keg from his first batch of Hahn Premium Lager for tasting at Farmer Brothers Belconnen. People loved the brew and it went on to become a favourite in Australia’s rapidly expanding premium beer market.
Tooheys, now part of Lion, bought the brand and expanded production. Over time the beer became just another so-called premium, lacking the bitterness or character of the original.
Then a week or two back Chuck Hahn phoned saying he’d been disappointed with the beer, especially in its use of old hops. He intervened late last year, bringing the recipe back to 100 per cent malt (it’d slipped to 80 per cent) and reintroducing fresh German Hersbrucker hops. The hops, especially the late addition, give the beer its vibrant, spicy aroma, says Hahn.
I hosted Hahn for that first tasting in Canberra and welcome its return to form.
Hahn Premium Australian Pilsener 330ml 6-pack $16 You’ll notice Hahn Premium recently changed from “Lager” to “Australian Pilsener”, reflecting a significant tweak to the quality. It’s in the European pilsner style, pale golden in colour with attractive spicy hops aroma and a gentle, fresh, lightly malty palate seasoned with spicy hops flavour – though not particularly bitter.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2013 First published 29 May 2013 in The Canberra Times
Cooper’s Pale Ale 375ml 6-pack $16 The wholemeal appeal of Cooper’s cloudy, bottle-conditioned ales spread from mung-bean-eating hippies into the mainstream some years back. So much so that the company now sells more beer in NSW than at home in South Australia, says Glen Cooper. Little wonder, we say, savouring a cold one in the Mount Kembla village pub near Wollongong.
James Squire Stow Away IPA 345ml 6-pack $19 The original India pale ales packed a power of alcohol, malt and hops to survive the pre-refrigeration-era journey from England to India. James Squire’s burly-but-balanced version of the brew uses rampant apricot-like hops aromas and flavours — and attendant intense bitterness — to shackle opulent malt and warm, sweet alcohol flavours.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2013 First published 22 May 2013 in The Canberra Times
Matilda Bay Beez Neez Honey Wheat Beer 345ml 6-pack $20 If there’s a bee’s knees of Aussie honey wheat beers, this is it. It’s a highly polished brew with the lightness and zesty freshness of wheat beer filled out and softened ever-so-subtly on the mid palate by the honey. It seems the honey adds a structural element rather than overt flavour.
Bridge Road Brewers Beechworth Chestnut Pilsner 330ml $4.65 Brewer Ben Kraus added locally grown chestnuts to the mash, adding another dimension to this very attractive, medium-bodied, light-golden pilsner. Galaxy hopes from the Ovens Valley add their own appealing fragrance and gentle, spicy bitterness. This is an exceptionally polished, harmonious beer without a rough edge anywhere.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2013 First published 24 April 2013 in The Canberra Times
Viking 330ml 6-pack $18.99 The latest starter in Australia’s exploding, so-called “premium” beer market uses “glacial water from Iceland”, declares the press release. And the brewers seem to have taken great care not to overwhelm the pristine water with hops and malt flavour – nor with body as it’s a modest 4.4 per cent alcohol.
Fullers Golden Pride Superior Strength Ale 500ml $8.40 Fuller’s luxurious ale carries its 8.5 per cent alcohol with grace and style. High alcohol tends to dominate beer flavour, but here it’s absorbed by the plush maltiness (pale-ale and crystal malts) and balanced by richly flavoured, bitter northdown, challenger and harvest hop varieties. It’s a sumptuous ale to savour with food.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2013 First published 17 April 2013 in The Canberra Times and goodfood.com.au
Young’s Luxury Double Malt Chocolate Stout 500ml $5.90 There’s chocolate in the brew and it shows up as a dry, bitter note in the finish – like strong high-cocoa chocolate. But more than anything it’s a full-bore stout featuring rich, roasted malt flavour, all-round opulence, smooth texture and assertive hops bitterness. A small glass on a cold night would be perfect.
Gage Roads Abstinence Belgian Dubbel Chocolate Ale 640ml $7.90 Western Australia’s Gage Roads, partly owned by Woolworths, made this Belgian style ale using Belgian yeast strains and Gabriel chocolate from Margaret River. Delicious chocolate flavour, tinged with hops, permeates the lively 7.4 per cent alcohol palate. Alas, the ale lost its head almost instantly.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2013 First published 10 April 2013 in The Canberra Times
Robinsons Old Tom Strong Ale with Ginger 330ml $5.85 The back label says this is a blend of respected UK brands, Old Tom Strong Ale and Fentiman’s Ginger Beer. The luxurious, six-per-cent alcohol, deep mahogany ale leads with a seductive earthy, spicy, gingery aroma. The generous, warm, piquant, gingery palate matches the aroma precisely.
Moon Dog Love Tap Double Lager 330ml $5.32 From Abbotsford, Victoria, Moon Dog Double Lager combines four malts (pilsner, carared, carapils and chocolate) with three hops varieties (galaxy, motueka and tettenang). This produces a deep-golden colour, a rich, sweet, malty palate, balanced by layers of bitterness and citrus-like flavours from the hops.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2013 First published 3 April 2013 in The Canberra Times
Brewboys Maiden Ale 330ml $4.15 This bottle conditioned amber ale, from Brewboys of Adelaide, combines malted barley from several counties, including the UK, Germany and Australia, and fresh hop flowers from Nelson, New Zealand. The pungency of the hops cuts through the rich, smooth caramel-like malt flavours, providing a clean, fresh, drying finish.
Billabong Brewing Nelson Sauvin Ale 330ml $3.98 Western Australia’s Billabong Brewing uses New Zealand Nelson Sauvin hop variety in an attempt to capture its distinctive gooseberry-like character. The beer may have displayed that character when first bottled. But it’s now more of a tartness cutting through and slightly overwhelming the background malt flavour.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2013 First published 27 March 2013 in The Canberra Times
Attempting to deflect criticism of its market power last week, Woolworths drew attention to its fast-growing competitor, Aldi. Woolworths highlighted the 95 per cent market share of private labels in Aldi, compared to just six per cent in its own stores.
Aldi remains a minnow compared to Woolies. But it’s growing rapidly and its strategy of offering mainly private labels makes it a difficult devil to grapple with – especially on price. How can you undercut a competitor that sells so few mainstream brands?
Aldi does private labels particularly well. The packaging looks good, often resembling market leaders. And the quality generally exceeds the “no better than it needs to be” values of old-time generics.
The beers reviewed this week, for example, sell on special for around the price of mainstream Australian brews, but offer more, in my view, than, say VB.
Hopper Whitman Belgian White Ale 355ml 6-pack $9.99–$12.99 Aldi’s Hopper Whitman white ale, brewed by World Beers, New York, emulates Belgian styles like Hoegaarden. The lemon colour and cloudy appearance look similar to the original, although the aroma seems fruitier and the palate a little rounder and sweeter. It’s a tasty, clean, refreshing wheat ale and true to style.
Hopper Whitman Summer Brew Pale Ale 330ml 6-pack $9.99–$12.99 At first glance I thought this might be in the bright, aromatically hoppy style of Little Creatures Pale Ale. There’s an element of aromatic hops, but the character leaned more to the herbal than floral and on the palate, hops bitterness seemed more important than hops flavour. It’s an easy drinking, well-balanced style.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012 First published 20 March 2013 in The Canberra Times
Wig and Pen Gueuze 355ml balloon $10 Gueuze, part of Belgium’s lambic beer family, combines barrel-conditioned ales of various ages – in the Wig’s version, one, two and three years old. The microbial tag-team in the barrels produces an intensely fruity beer (pineapple-like) of tart, grapefruit-like acidity with underlying earthy, farmyard characters. It’s not a session beer, but a remarkable one to linger over.
Prickly Moses Organic Pilsner 330ml $3.82 Prickly Moses, from Barongarook, Victoria, combines Otway rainwater and pilsner malts with New Zealand hops, fermented by “one of the world’s original yeast strains from Germany”. The slightly cloudy, pale lemon colour and persistent white head appeal strongly, as does the fresh, brisk, herbal-hoppy palate. It stands out among all the me-too pilsners.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2013 First published 13 March 2013 in The Canberra Times