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Category Archives: Beer
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
The Guardian Weekly, UK, reported 7 May on growing fascination in Germany for American beers – not the bland, thin mainstream brews, but the rich diversity now flowing from America’s very large craft brewing sector.
Non-German beers doubled to 8.1 per cent of the German market between 2004 and 2012, says the report. It also says many of the small breweries opening up in German cities “emulate American craft beer styles”.
With per capita consumption of beer declining in Germany, some brewers, claims the report, “say their only salvation lies in fostering a drinking culture less constrained by a 1516 purity law that they say crimps innovation”.
Thorsten Heiser of Bavaria’s ancient Weihenstephan brewery sees the phenomenon as a generational thing – the oldies drink beer for daily nutrition; young people seek flavour variety.
As a sometimes shopper in German supermarkets, I welcome the variety. But I’ll never say no to a traditional weiss beer or lager either.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2013 First published 22 May 2013 in The Canberra Times
Adelaide University researcher Dr Jason Eglinton recently announced the development of a new type of barley capable of keeping beer fresher, longer.
Eglinton attributed the barley’s unique qualities to a defective enzyme. He said in normal barleys, the enzyme triggered reactions that, over time, produced stale, cardboard-like tastes.
But, in the new barley, the reactions don’t happen – meaning beer keeps its fresh flavour longer.
Eglinton says the research team developed the barley in conjunction with Japanese brewer Sapporo and commercial production is to begin in South Australia this year.
In 2007 Sapporo developed a comparable barley in Canada and planned to produce about 90,000 tonnes a year in Canada by 2011. Sapporo applied for patents in about 30 countries at the time – indicating the commercial value of such a breakthrough.
Eglinton says the new barley suits Australian conditions and he expects Sapporo to make similar commercial use as they have with the Canadian version.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2013 First published 15 May 2013 in The Canberra Times
Cruising Hunter Street, Newcastle, these days you’re more likely to find cold craft beer than a hot Holden. The Clarendon Hotel, for example, offers a revolving range of beers through its “guest tap”.
During our visit we try their “paddle” – a narrow wooden tray holding sample-size glasses – of beers from from the Central and North Coasts and Fremantle.
A pale ale from Six String Brewer, Erina, nails the opulently malty, aggressively hoppy American pale ale style – a balanced and delicious version of a style that’s hard to perfect. It’s available only on tap at present (and not in Canberra). But the brewery hopes to release a bottled version later this year.
Two beers from Black Duck brewery, Heron’s Creek (near Port Macquarie), are OK, but not memorable. And the Honeysuckle Hotel, on the waterfront, pours the perfect Murray’s Angry Man Pale Ale, reviewed below.
Murray’s Angry Man Pale Ale 330ml 4-pack $13.90 The website calls it a cross between the mild English pale ale style and massively malty-hoppy American style. The wonderful fresh brew I tried on tap recently in Newcastle leaned more towards the American style with its rich, smooth malt and highly aromatic and bitter hops. It’s now widely available in retail outlets.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2013 First published 1 May 2013 in The Canberra Times and
On April 12, in Australian Brews News, Dr Brett Stubbs set the record straight on post-war brewing in Australia. Stubbs rejects the myth that the Sail and Anchor Pub Brewery (Fremantle 1984) was the first to be built after the end of World War Two.
Stubbs tallies, “thirteen new breweries opened across the country between the end of the Second World War in 1945 and the opening of the Sail and Anchor nearly forty years later”.
Stubbs list includes new facilities built to replace old ones in both Perth and NSW. But the list includes three new breweries in Darwin – Swan Brewery, Carlton United Breweries and the short-lived Ellis-Kells Brewery – and Victoria’s brave but ultimately ill-fated Courage Brewery, commissioned in August 1968.
However, the 13 breweries established between 1945 and 1984 pales in comparison to the roughly 260 established since 1984, notes Stubbs.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2013 First published 24 April 2013 in The Canberra Times
Lion brewing isn’t saying much, but according to The Shout – a hotel, bar, club and liquor industry newsletter – the company plans to release a beer dispenser, to be named the Tap King, and a range of draft beers for home consumption later this year.
Australian Brews News says Lion revealed its plans to members of the Australian Hotels Association. Some members of the association believe the move could take business from them, it reported.
Lion’s plans are doubtless in response to weak beer sales and a continuing trend for people to drink at home.
The problem for hotels could be exacerbated by intense competition among retailers offering Tap King refills. This could further consolidate the market power of Coles and Woolworths who could smoothly fit the new products in with their existing beer ranges.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2013 First published 17 April 2013 in The Canberra Times and goodfood.com.au
Canberra’s Wig and Pen Brewery has been selected to brew beer for the presentation dinner following this year’s Australian International Beer Awards. The Wig earned this precious gig through its performance at last year’s awards.
The awards, conducted annually by the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria (RASV) and the University of Ballarat, enjoys a strong reputation globally.
This year’s event has attracted a record 1,480 entries from 270 brewers in 35 countries. The 12 per cent increase includes greater entry numbers from Australia, New Zealand Brazil, Japan and the United States.
The RASV is also behind the Royal Melbourne Wine Show. And the University of Ballarat became involved because of its courses in brewing and malting. Chief judge of the event this year will be Brad Rogers, brewer and partner at Stone and Wood brewery, Byron Bay.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2013 First published 10 April 2013 in The Canberra Times
A former Foster’s brewer and beer-judging colleague of mine, Dermot O’Donnell, recently defended locally brewed Guinness. James Davidson wrote in Australian Brews News two days before St Patrick’s Day, “the money you spend on such a pint [Australian brewed Guinness] and the beverage you subsequently consume may actually be more distant to Ireland than the foam shamrock hat on your head that you purchased from a two dollar shop”.
O’Donnell’s response traced the modern history of Guinness, including the development in Ireland of a vital flavouring component, called Guinness flavour extract. “This is the X factor in Guinness which gives it is unique character”, he wrote – adding that Guinness therefore has the unique taste of Ireland no matter where it’s brewed in the world.
O’Donnell called for a fair go for Guinness and “us Irish who love the black stuff on Paddy’s Day”.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2013 First published 3 April 2013 in The Canberra Times
Early each year the Beer and Brew Awards nominates Australia’s top 100 brews of the previous year. Beers wine their places through a combination of popular votes, on- and off-premise sales, industry nominations and results from leading beer shows.
Where beers finish on equal points, they’re lined up before a panel of judges for a final decision.
In this year’s event, big, small and middle-sized brewers shared the honours. Japanese-owned Lion led the competition, with 10 successful beer spread across a number of its brands – Castlemaine XXXX, Knappstein, Kosciusko, Little Creatures, Malt Shovel Mad Brewer, Swan, Hahn and White Rabbit. Mid-sized Coopers fielded six winners.
Western Australian Feral Hop Hog topped the list, followed by Byron Bay’s Stone and Wood Pacific Ale, the Lion’s Little Creatures Pale Ale.
You can read the full list at www.beerandbrewer.com
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