Friday, 26 January 2018

Beers of the Year

Tomorrow the GABS Hottest 100 Australian craft beers is announced. This is based on public votes from a list of beers the breweries have entered. It is basically a popularity contest and comes down to who has the best marketing. I will be following the countdown with both personal and professional interest. In the meantime, I have complied a list of my own favourites from last year. The only proviso is that I had to drink them last year.


3 Ravens Juicy IPA (6.5%) - With every man and his dog making a New England IPA, there have been some good ones and some bad ones on the market. This is one of the best. The 'guidelines' claim that New England IPAs are characterised by the choice of yeast (which gives a 'turgid' appearance - many prefer the terms cloudy or milkshake) and a rigorous, late dry-hopping regime, in which the hops are celebrated for flavour and aroma rather than bitterness. This does exactly what it says on the tin.

Barossa Valley Brewing Chocolate Coffee Stout (5.8%) - Flavoured with Peruvian cocoa nibs and Barossa roasted coffee, the English ale yeast adds a berry fruitiness. I drank this on a cold winter's day and loved its sweet, rich flavours and strong stoutness.

Batch Brewing Company Island Style Coconut IPA (7.2%) - Cascade and Mosaic hops (for fruity pineapple flavours) added to pale, wheat malts, toasted coconut and lactose make this a perfect getaway beer. It's like a tropical holiday - mellow, balanced, laid-back and totally relaxing.

Moon Dog Bad Boy Bubbly (13.1%) - If you've got champagne tastes but a beer budget, this is perfect. It's a sensationally smooth barley wine made with very pale malt, champagne yeast and Nelson Sauvin hops. It has the fine bead and intensity of a champagne but a beautiful beery malt, and is aged in new Hungarian oak to give it a little lactic kick. We had this on New Year's Eve, and it was a great way to usher in 2018.

Stockade Brew Co Mysterio IIPA (9%) - I first had this at the Beer Day Out beer festival in 2016. It was big and fruity and zesty like a tangerine dream and I loved it. Biscuity notes arrive from the malt with an almost gingerbread breath; it is quite sweet but beautifully balanced with the hop profile. The marketing says it is packed full of hops but doesn't reveal which ones - hence the mystery. I'd guess some sort of combination of Amarillo, Cascade, Galaxy, Simcoe? I could be totally wrong, of course.

Stockade Brew Co Old Money Barrel-Aged Bourbon Imperial Stout 2017 (12.5%) - Rich and big and boozy and beautiful, with chocolate notes and barrel-aged bourbon. Stockade took some of their World Beer Cup Trophy-winning Russian Imperial Stout and aged it in Woodford Reserve Kentucky bourbon bourbon barrels for six months. It has picked up some rich spicy depth and dried fruit sweetness. It's far outstripping inflation: superb.

Thirsty Crow Brewing Co Vanilla Milk Stout 5.2% - This is the best (some might say only) reason to visit Wagga Wagga. The beers are not distributed beyond the brewpub, but you can take away 750ml cans of rich creamy goodness. The damn fine milk stout is sweet and rich; thick and dark with a tan head, full mouthfeel, dark chocolate and coffee flavours, and a slightly bitter finish. The addition of vanilla from Madagascar lifts it to even higher levels.

Two Birds Brewing Knock on Wood (7.1%) - This barrel-aged Belgian blonde works so much better than it has any right to. The beer was released for the brewery's sixth birthday in June 2017 (because wood is a traditional sixth anniversary gift) and incorporates Belgian yeast esters of bubblegum and peach with plenty of oak and vanilla. It's a seriously good blend of the sweetness of a blonde with the tart, funky edge of barrel aging.

Wignall Brewery Belco Boyz (5.2%) - I'm a little bit biased because I love this style of beer (English Pale Ale) and it's made by Him Outdoors. It's clean and crisp with earthy floral hops, sweet malt and fruity esters.

New Zealand

8 Wired Bumaye (16%) - Insanely good imperial stout mellowed in pinot noir barrels for a year; raisins and rich fruit and a port-like consistency. Sensational.
8 Wired Wild Feijoa (2016) (6.7%) - Sour ale brewed with feijoas and aged in wine barrels. I don't really like feijoas, but this is the best use I've ever found for them. 
Behemoth Brave Bikkie Brown Ale (6%) - a brown ale brewed with cocoa nibs and coconut; like an ANZAC biscuit. Delicious.
Emerson's Brewing Company Barrel Proof Imperial Stout (10.5%) - Decadent stout aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels, with big boozy flavours and a fantastic balance of malts; this was my beer of show at Beervana 2017.

Renaissance Tribute Barley Wine (11.8%) - Like a boozy Christmas pudding; tasting of sherry, dried fruits and treacle - sensationally rich!
Te Aro Flanders Red Ale (7.6%) - Oak-aged funk with strong base malts.
Yeastie Boys Rex Attitude (7%) - 100% smoked peat malt makes this exceeding smoky and remarkably smooth - this was the sixth bottle ever produced. 
Yeastie Boys Royal Taninbomb (8%) - There are so many coffee beers that there should definitely be more tea beers - especially if they taste this good. It's an extra pale double Earl Grey IPA bursting with citrus and floral notes from the dry leafing with Earl Grey Blue Flower. Two of my favourite things (tea and beer) made by my second favourite brewer.

Rest of the World

Black Sheep Black Sheep Ale (4.4%) - An old favourite; the nutty, toffee, malty, hoppy characters are superlative; especially with Sunday lunch at the brewery.
Brakspear Brewing Company Bitter (3.4%) - I think this is my favourite ever beer. That is all.

Coniston Brewing Company No. 9 Barley Wine (8.5%) - Beer fresh from the source is always excellent, and this from the Black Bull in Coniston is seriously good stuff; rich, spicy, warming, fruity, everything...
Loose Cannon Brewery Gyle 1000 (7.5%) - Excellent imperial/ double IPA which is deep, rich and flavourful - caramel malt and sweet orange hop characters.
Russian River Brewing Company Supplication (7.75%) - Holy Russian River, Batman! This is awesome! Fruity aroma with high acetic acid; mouth-puckering sour fruit flavours with a woody edge.

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