Kevin and Alison O’Neill created the Snowy Mountains Brewery brand in 2004 and had their first beer – Snowy Mountains Pale Ale – brewed under contract, to Kevin’s specification, by Hunter-based Blue Tongue Brewery in 2005.
In 2006 the O’Neill’s shifted production to contract brewer AIB, near Camden on Sydney’s southwestern outskirts, a move that marked an expansion to a range that now includes a southern German style wheat ale, a Czech inspired pilsener and a unique red ale.
The beers are all named for Snowy Mountain heroes or landmarks (Charlotte’s Hefeweizen, Bullocks Pilsner, Crackenback Pale Ale and Razorback Red Ale). But if the connection to the Snowies seems tenuous at present, the O’Neill’s website says they’ve plans to build a brewery in Jindabyne.
As well as providing a captive market and regional connection to the brews (do skiers drink?), having their own brewery gives the O’Neills an opportunity to tweak quality a few notches higher.
In my view that’s essential in an increasingly crowded market where the big brewers, with their distribution and cost advantages, turn out distinctive beers like James Squire and Matilda Bay that match or surpass in quality what many craft brewers produce.
Snowy Mountains Brewery Crackenback Pale Ale 330ml $3.50
This a toned-down but attractive version of the American pale ale style – ie, not quite as malty or hoppy as the originals but still with enough oomph to lift it above the pack. There’s an appealing citrus note to the hops aroma but a little more body might better offset the bitter finish.
Snowy Mountains Brewery Bullocks Pilsner 330ml $3.50
Bullocks is modelled on the Czech Pilzen style, but like Crackenback above, it mutes the keynotes of the style without going too far to the bland centre. It has attractive, fragrant, herbal hops aroma and rich but lively, fresh palate that finishes dry and moderately bitter, leaving the mouth ready for the next sip.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2008