Brews from Byron Bay and Okinawa

Two contrasting summer brews landed on the tasting bench this week – one from Stone and Wood Brewing Company, Byron Bay, the other from Orion Brewery, Okinawa, Japan.

They could be metaphors for the national stereotypes. Loud and cheery Stone and Wood Garden Ale, slaps you on the back, calls you maaaate, and pounds your palate with exuberant, brash (and delicious) hoppiness. And a comparatively low 3.8 per cent alcohol invites perhaps just one more stubby, maaate.

Orion bows discretely, lightly and politely onto the palate. Belying its five per cent alcohol, it offers delicate, refreshing flavours and softness – suggesting a fair slug of rice malt in the brew. It finishes bone dry and refreshing in the distinctive Japanese style. (It’s available at

Stone and Wood Limited Release Garden Ale 500ml
Reduce beer’s alcohol content and the flavour falls away; increase it and everything rises with it. In 3.8 per-cent-alcohol Garden Ale, the brewers very cleverly use Tasmanian Ella hops to fill the low-alcohol flavour gap. The hops add a striking citrus flavour and bitterness to accompany the lovely malt and dry finish.

Orion Premium Draft Beer 24-344ml bottles $74.90
Orion “is sure to satisfy Australian pallets this summer”, crows the press release. From Okinawa, Orion is light coloured and light bodied in the crisp, delicate, dry Japanese style. The low bitterness may surprise drinkers of mainstream lager, but it’s part and parcel of the style and well suited to delicate Japanese cuisine.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2014
First published 23 February 2014 in the Canberra Times