Brew Saga’s Top 10 Brews Of 2014

I know it’s a stupid cliche, but what a freaking year it has been in the craft beer world, particularly in Australia. We are now finally starting to see the good works of all those independent craft brewers, craft shop owners and bar owners out there really starting to pay off and stick it to big brewing, providing better quality and better education to the consumer. Sure, there is still a massive amount of work to be done, but this niche industry has been going strength to strength all year and winning your average, “Lion” drinking public over or at least have made them think of the quality work that is going on out there. Games have been stepped up and the establishment challenged, and I can only see it getting bigger and better in 2015.

With such a diverse year, it is extremely difficult to pick out highlights. We have seen some brave, bizarre and downright mind bending stuff come out this year and a ridiculous number of new, unknown breweries standing up to really be counted as some of the best producers in the country. I have unconsciously found myself only really reviewing Australian produced stuff these days (sometimes New Zealand, those kiwis are too good to ignore…) because the quality coming out at the moment is just so top notch I don’t need to look abroad. The best, most interesting and experimental beers really are coming out of Australia and you literally do not need to look anywhere else; if you want it, chances are someone in this country is brewing it and it only takes a phone call or email to get hold of it. That to me is just super exciting and I cannot wait to see what 2015 has in store…

So, Top 10… I would rather have a Top 50 but thats way too much. There are so many honourable mentions and brews that just missed out, it seems unfair but I’m pretty happy with what I have come up with. Some where just no brainers, others considerably more difficult to pick out, but here we go (in no particular order)…

 

mp:stillwater

Mornington Peninsula/ Stillwater Collab Pepperberry Saison

One of the stellar works to come out of Good Beer Week this year. If you got a chance to try it, you know why it’s here… A really special collaboration. Amazing florals on the nose and a brilliantly fresh palate with a subtle hum from the pepper berry in the background with an impressive estery/ spice finish. Wish there was more…

killersprocketryeipa

Killer Sprocket Rye IPA

I am a rye fiend. But I was good with this list and only picked one, and it was a no brainer which to pick. Having heard such good things I knew it would be good, but it just blew my expectations out of the water. Spicy, fruity, earthy and all deliciousness, this seriously impressed me.

drorderspres12bottle

Doctor’s Orders Prescription 12 Belgian Black IPA

This is one i’ve been obsessed with from the get go. With such an unusual style I thought this has got to be worth a try, and it turned out to be one of my favourite brews of the year. Just incredible. Every aspect in this brew is clearly defined across the palate and nose. Some really clever brewing.

ridersxpa

Riders Brew Co. XPA

This was one of those brews I kept putting off but once I tasted it it blew my socks off, soaring right into my top 10 of the year. I now keep a healthy supply of it… It is just so packed with flavour and cleverly layered that it would be impossible to get bored of or put down. Just too good.

beergeekragequit

Brew Cult Beer Geek Rage Quit India Pale Lager

It was just damn near impossible to pick a favourite from Hendo’s impressive stable, but I did it. It was between this and his ‘Can’t Fight The Funk’ Farmhouse IPA, which I voted into the Hottest 100 this year, so technically there’s two… Everything I have from him is just incredible and really makes you think about what your drinking. This one really made me think: packed with subtlety, nuance but overall a clean, fresh and delicious experience. An absolute cracker and must for the summer months.

3ravensdruid

3 Ravens The Druid Belgian Quad aged in PX barrels

This is THE no brainer of the year for me. I know I said ‘no particular order’ but this is number one. Hands down. El Numero Uno. Best experience of the beer year. I’m a massive fan of PX, I love barrel ageing and Belgian Quadruple: the whole triad is there. I only got one and I kick myself everyday for not picking up more…

lasirenewildsaison

La Sirene Wild Saison

You know those up and comers I mentioned in the intro? These guys are on the top of that ‘up and coming’ list… La Sirene has had an incredible year and they are only going to get better. Being producers of solely Farmhouse/ Belgians/ Sours/ Lambics, I can see demand is about to sky rocket for these guys. I said it then, i’ll say it now: La Sirene can and will sit very easily amongst the best farmhouse producers in the world. 2015 will be the year of La Sirene… All of their releases impressed me this year, but the Wild Saison jumped out most for me. Fantastic florals, juicy stone fruits, baked citrus and luscious tropical fruits with lovely drying cereal, flint and apple/ pear malic acid notes.

blackdogDIPA

Black Dog Brewery Junk Yard Dog Double IPA

What can I say about James that hasn’t been said before? One of the most consistent, brilliant brewers around at the moment. Love everything that leaves his tanks. This one really stood out for me because it embodies a lot of his brews. Fresh, floral and fruity on the nose but once you get into it, it turns into ‘The Black Dog”: chewy, resin, pine and serious bitter bitters. Just sensational.

brewboyshopp

Brew Boys Hoppapotamus

This one was a bit of a wild card for me. I had no idea about these guys, only it was a little difficult to get hold of. Given to me as a birthday gift this year I went in with an open mind, not begin sure what to expect… What I got was one of the best pale ales I’ve ever had in my life, leaning more towards IPA though. Masterfully and beyond delicious.

exitsaison

Exit Brewing #001 Saison

It’s pretty difficult to go past the first release from Frase and Grum. Any brewer that makes a Saison their first release are pretty confident in what they’re doing and it proved their best for me. This is an absolute classic, one of the tastiest brews of the year.

Honourable Mention: Red Hill Brewery Imperial Stout 2014

Just beaten to the post unfortunately but too good not to mention. A seriously layered, deep and rich experience this brew had all the good things and was brilliantly balanced. Dangerous too. A majestic Imperial Stout.

That’s it! 2014 done and dusted. I’ve already made it my new years resolution to get even more beery in 2015: more visits, more reviews, more involvement and more delicious beers! Here’s hoping 2015 is a great year for all of us and things just get better and better. See you in the New Year!

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Wolf of the Willows XPA

wowXPA

 

It’s always dangerous when there is so much hype surrounding a brew and a new brewery, particularly in a year where there seems to be a new brewery popping up every month. It would be very easy for Wolf of the Willows to fall by the wayside, but I’ve been tracking Scott (Mr. Wolf of the Willows), his marketing and his branding and it has been top notch all the way making it impossible to ignore. I find it very clever that he has the one release and has decided to launch his brand on this, giving him the chance to really nail it. And he has, building a serious amount of ground swell. The thing I love most is the label design, simple but effective and instantly recognisable. But all of this is nothing if the brew doesn’t back it up! His first release, an XPA, rather flies in the face of what is being released at the moment. It’s either IPA’s or ‘session’ ales but this hits the in between, something that seems to have been missed by everyone else and has proven a clever move. Let’s see how it stacks up.

Style: Extra Pale Ale

ABV: 4.7%

IBU: N/A

From Where: Scotty “Beardface” Thompson… Thanks Scotty!

Pour:

Pours a lovely orange marmalade colour with fluffy white head.

On The Nose:

The nose seriously kicks it up to 11, so good. Layers of ripe, juicy citrus and candied citrus rind, sweet pineapple, heaps of honeydew melon and lingering mango and peach. There is this brilliant blend of fruit sweetness and biscuit malt sweetness in the background that’s just blowing my socks off, a perfect amalgamation.

Palate:

Getting lots of tropical fruit bitters and citrus: pineapple, passionfruit and cracking grapefruit pith, lime zest and preserved lemon notes. Plenty of soft, chewy stone fruits to wrap your mouth around too with light candied ginger and cinnamon. Really well balanced out with sweet biscuit malts and a dry medium- long finish and mouthfeel. Every mouth full leaves you wanting more!

Final Thoughts:

Well folks, it was definitely worth the wait! The elusive Wolf of the Willows XPA packs a serious amount of flavour for 4.7%, I had to double check the label to make sure! I am super excited for what is in store next for this ambitious project. If you happen to come by a bottle of this, do yourself a favour and buy it! Expect to see some more Wolf of the Willows XPA around the place in January.

Kaiju!! RoboHop

kaijurobohop

Who would of thought? A summer brew from Kaiju!! For those that are unfamiliar with their work let me tell you this: with any of their previous brews, if it doesn’t feel like you’ve got a mouthful of sticky pine needles and pine resin assaulting your every sense, your drinking Kaiju… Let me be very clear, this is a compliment in every sense. They are true kings of the hardcore IPA, boasting impressive hop profiles and sticking it to the IPA establishment with awesome Double IPA’s. Who knows what’s in store with a Golden IPA from Kaiju? Let’s have a look, sure to be a cracker…

Style: Golden IPA

ABV: 5.7%

IBU: N/A

From Where: Low Buy, Lilydale

Brewed in: Prahran, VIC

Pour:

Pours a lovely golden orange with generous, fluffy white head.

On The Nose:

Getting tonnes of fresh stone fruits, lemon pith, fleshy grapefruit and lime juice with plenty of tangy tropical fruits: pineapple, melon and notes of passionfruit blossom. Finishing in freshly cut grass, leafy characters.

Palate:

The palate is packed with delicious, sweet, tangy tropical fruits and fresh stone fruits. Deep, lengthy layers of acidic pineapple, melon, juicy mango, honeydew, fresh apricot and tasty, sweet nectarine. The finish is crisp with light cereal notes, seriously dry and ridiculously refreshing with a clean, medium finish.

Final Thoughts:

This is Kaijus’ closest thing to a summer lovin’, feel good, quaffable brew as I have ever tasted. It’s usually all chewy resin and pine with serious bitterness but this is freaking delicious in a way I never thought Kaiju would go. Sure, the classic Kaiju bitters are there but there is so much more than that: so fresh, fruity and brilliantly dry with amazing freshness. This could be seriously dangerous on tap, that 5.7% is hidden extremely well. A brilliant IPA for a sunny summer day.

Riders Brewing Co. XPA

ridersxpa

For those that do not know Andrew ‘Shandy’ Gargans’ story, it’s pretty much the home brewers wet dream. Starting off in his garage, opening up his doors to his neighbourhood, he got a lot of great exposure; particularly from one: Gus Kelly. Gus, for those that do not know, is part of the Kellybrook Winery and Cider family. And he loved Shandys’ brews. What started as fanciful conversation between two mates blossomed into commercial brewing and Riders Brewing was born. Still relatively new, Riders is now out and about, doling out some seriously tasty brews. This one, Riders XPA, is a perfect example.

Style: Strong Pale Ale

ABV: 5.8%

IBU: 45

Where from: Low Buy Liquor, Lilydale

Pour:

Pours a pale orange/ amber with fine white head.

On The Nose:

The nose on this is fantastic. Plenty of dry hop character, lots of awesome orange and lemon pith, orange juice, fresh apricot and brilliant tropical fruits: pineapple, melon, cantaloupe, and fantastic earthiness with sweet, biscuity malt.

Palate:

This palate has got it all! Fantastic toasty biscuit malt, earthy characters with notes of honey sweetness and stacks upon stacks of fresh citrus and stone fruits. Freshly peeled lemon pith, fleshy grapefruit and lime with tangy pineapple. notes of mango and juicy peach. Absolutely delicious.

Final Thoughts:

Forget session ales, XPA is King. Packed full of flavour, brilliant mouthfeel and awesome finish that just keeps on going. Riders have nailed it here, this is amazing. This beer is an absolute staple to be in constant rotation for summer. Great work Shandy, this is absolutely delicious.