Getting in to the Nitty Gristy with Dan Dainton

dainton collage1

I have to say, I have a serious soft spot for Dan Dainton. I genuinely site his brews as being one of the first craft beers that got me in to this insane game many years ago. His Red Eye Rye to me was just spectacular and I still love to drink it, it was a revelation to me. Since then, it has been an absolute joy to see Dainton Family Brewery grow over the years and see what has been coming from Dan’s addled mind. And it has all been good, damn good. His Insane Uncle IPA, Sinister Sister and Grand Pappy’s Whip Imperial Red stand out as some of my favourites, all which I have reviewed in the past.

With rumblings of Dan soon opening his own brewery and taproom in Carrum Downs and giving his labels a massive over haul and relaunch, I managed to catch up with Dan for a chat about where he thinks craft is going, his rye obsession and how his family plays a part in his brews.

dd

Where did your Brew Saga begin?
Along time ago, in a shed, far , far away… I was a young lad living my my uncle and Aunt after my father was betrayed by the empire and… Wait a second… He was never betrayed! You lied to my face Ben!
Oh, where… Shepparton, not unlike Mos Eisley, really…

How is the Dainton Family important to your brand? How has it influenced your brewing and style?
A lot of the time they provide me with great drinking stories and reasons to drink… What, no! I don’t condone that kind of behaviour. They are not unlike most families. There is always at least one weird one and a bratty one and a evil scientist etc etc. I want people to relate to that and feel sorry for me and in that moment of empathy, consume a beer crafted in the sorrows of inevitability of woe.

What was the beer that turned it all around for you?
A friend had come back from overseas, which was amazing for two reasons. 1. That he was allowed to travel overseas after the visa authorities saw Shepparton on his passport and 2. That he decided to come back to Shepparton. Anyway, he brought back a swag of beers we’d never seen and I was intrigued and mesmerized by the fact that you needed a special tool to remove the beer cap. “A bottle opener”, they called it. Astounding. We cracked open the beers and I was hooked. A crisp, herbaceous, bitter, floral and probably oxidized golden liquid poured into my gullet… It was the most exotic thing I had ever seen… A green bottled beer that didn’t taste like wet hay… My first international and inspirational beer… A Carlsburg.

What do you love about the job and the industry?
My job is convoluted and multifaceted, being the brewer and owner. I love making beers, tasting beers, talking beers, visiting breweries, designing labels and writing the crazed little bottle blurbs. Also the mandatory GBW break dancing and lifting fellow brewers over my head.
The industry is generally pretty exceptional in terms of people and passion. I will be interested to see how it copes with rapid growth of breweries and a possible lag of consumer education.

It’s present in pretty much all of your brews, so what’s with the rye obsession?
Rye not?

Where do you see craft beer and Dainton in 10 years?
In pharmacies, 7/11’s, vending machines, airport, planes, busses, on the moon, on Mars… We love what the West Coast of the USA has achieved so far and want to be a big part of where Australia needs to go. Which is right where the California and Oregon are. Growler fills at petrol stations, 10 breweries in tiny towns, Stone IPA tap rooms at airports. I want that. For all of us.

If you had a time machine, what part of brewing history would you go back to?
I’d go forwards. It’s only getting better.

What do you prefer, a fresh beer or an interesting beer?
Fresh IPA’s and hop driven beers are a big part of what I like to drink on a regular basis. Give me an oak-aged 3 year old barley wine and I’ll be pretty bloody stoked. I don’t want an oxidized or infected one… Needs to be in perfect condition.
I do get a little annoyed with the “drink local” mentality sometimes… I’d say drink what the bar staff recommend as fresh.

If someone asked you to put a six pack together for them, what would you put in it?
Do I like them?

YES
Pliney the Elder
Lost Abbey Track #10 Bat out of Hell
Crux Fermentation Galaxy IPA
Knappstein Lager
Spezial – Munich Lager
Pils Urquell Unfiltered and Unpaturized

NO
6 x bottles of my first batch of homebrew…

Dans Beer Hall of the Damned and Brewery will be opening early next year!

Brand Loyalty & The Craft Beer ‘Break- Up’

jokermeme

There are some hurt feelings around today. Some people will say some things they will regret, tears will be shed and spats will be had. I am of course talking about the news that Asahi has taken 100% ownership of the Melbourne craft beer institution, Mountain Goat. It is not the first craft brewery to now have either partly sold or  full ownership be sold to ‘Big Beer’. In recent weeks Lagunitas has sold a 50% stake to Heineken and AB InBev has made another acquisition in LA Golden Road Brewing. But I think it’s the Mountain Goat sale that has most people rattled and made people turn on what is a most loved brewery and i’ll tell you why: Brand Loyalty, more specifically craft beer brand royalty.

Personally, when I first heard this I thought ‘well, that’s the end of Mountain Goat, never drinking it again’ but straight after that I thought again, ‘ hang on, how is it going to taste any different from today to tomorrow?’ The answer? It won’t. So what changed? Very simply, perception. It then got me thinking about brand loyalty, perception, business and what a serious double edged sword it can be.

For the sake of this exercise I’m going to use Mountain Goat as I see it as my best frame of reference. Brand loyalty will create any business a loyal army of followers, people that will invest themselves in the brand, their ideas, their philosophy and most importantly, their product. And Mountain Goat have managed to do this for 15 years, creating some fiercely loyal followers. Their philosophy? Independent, ‘untamed’, craft beer. You know what’s not ‘independent. untamed craft beer’? Selling to Asahi. To this extent, people have a right to feel jaded about this recent deal. Such an old craft institution like Mountain Goat selling to big business is a hard blow to take for what is essentially one of the original, family owned brewers in Victoria. People have a right to be unhappy.

An important thing to remember though is that Mountain Goat, along with the other high profile breweries, are a business. Dave and Cam have worked hard for decades to get to where they are and are now reaping the rewards of their success. And you know what? That isn’t a bad thing!

So lets not be the bitchy exes of the craft beer relationship. Be happy for their success and when you see them in the street, don’t ignore them, ask them how they are and what they’re doing, are they seeing anyone? Also comment on how great they’re looking… Let’s face it, Asahi have been brewing the vast majority of the Mountain Goat stable for 3 years now and there has been no change in quality. It may be naive to think it won’t change now but Mountain Goat will always be Mountain Goat, a Melbourne craft beer Mecca and nothing will change that.

Nomad Freshie Salt & Pepper

nomads&p

I was pretty excited to see this limited release from Nomad. Gose (pronounced gose- uh) is a style that is very rarely seen in Australia. I’ve only ever seen it twice: Boatrocker at GABS this year with their one- off festival beer ‘I Ain’t Afraid Of No Gose’ and Doctors Orders Electrolyte Forte which was at the same festival a few years ago. I absolutely adore the style and really wish it was around more and i’m not really sure why it isn’t more widely brewed: it’s crisp, clean and a brilliant balance of tart sour and savoury. Very unique and seriously tasty. Traditionally brewed with salted water and coriander, the base is fairly basic: wheat and pale malts along with fermentation with lacto- strains and german yeast.

Inspired by the Northern Beaches and breathing the fresh, salty air of the ocean and wanting to put that in a glass, Nomad have stuck to the traditional with this brew and taken full advantage of their surroundings and local resources. Brewing with salt water straight from Freshwater Beach right down the road from the brewery, locally sourced coriander and Tasmanian Mountain pepper they have attempted to bring the beach to the bottle… Let’s see their take on this elusive, unique style.

Style: Gose

ABV: 4.5%

IBU: 15

From Where: Low Buy Liquor, Lilydale

Pour:

Pours a pale orange/ lemon colour with minimal, fluffy white head.

On The Nose:

Fresh and vibrant on the nose with notes of nectarine, honeydew melon and citrus pith. Touches of coriander are coming through too with pepper spice, fresh cut grass and savoury characters.

Palate:

Classic Gose balance. Tart, savoury and spicy with touches of stone fruits. The salt water really shines on the palate giving it a tart, acidic, drying, savoury character with touches of pepper and coriander. Also getting nuances of tropical fruits: think pineapple, peach and apricot. Great puckering sourness throughout too with grapefruit pith and lychee. Brilliant balance all round with a crisp, dry finish.

Final Thoughts:

This is as traditional as it gets with clever little touches here and there. Sour, spiciness, crisp, dry and a brilliant mouthfeel that really knocks it out of the park. I really hope to start seeing more of this style around, and just more variety for that matter: it’s crisp, clean, refreshing with touches of spice and great sour tartness that hits all the right spots on the palate, puckering me up and leaving me wanting more. A brilliant take on a rarely brewed style.

7 Cent 6 -Fifths

7cent6fifths

You gotta respect what 7 Cent do. Three mates who love to home brew and brew what they want, regardless of the consequence. Let me provide you an example of their reckless abandon approach: their first release was a 9% Belgian Strong Ale which they served through a hand pump… Now that’s an approach to brewing I can get behind! The story I love even more is how they came by their name. With no idea for names they decided to give up and blow off some steam. By burning a couch. What was left the next day was some spare change, and some old spare change at that: one and two cent pieces. And you guessed it, it equalled up to 7 cents. So now comes their barrel aged Barley Wine, and in typical 7 Cent style it is a beast and even the barrel has its own story: starting life as a bourbon barrel, it then moved to whiskey and then off to Norway where it was filled with Nogne O’s part of the Aurora Borealis then off to Beechworth for Bridge Roads end. From there the 7 Cent boys picked it up and racked in their barley wine, leaving it for a total of 18 months. It’s a brilliant story, but is it a brilliant beer? Let’s find out.

Style: Dessert Barley Wine

ABV: 14.6%

IBU: N/A

From: Low Buy Liquor, Lilydale

Pour:

Pours jet black with fine light brown/ tan head.

On The Nose:

Nose exhibits a brilliantly warming alcohol note with boozy raisins, sticky milk chocolate, burnt toffee and butterscotch, vanilla bean, roasted coffee and rich espresso with brilliant, warming whiskey and bourbon notes with oaky char aromatics. Sherry sweet and brilliant balance.

Palate:

Expect to find rich, sticky Oloroso sherry sweetness here with notes of liquorice, raisin, honeyed prunes and luscious sweet malts and biscuit with roast hazelnuts and almonds. Now for the finish, and this is where the barrel ageing really shines through: you’ll find drying dark cocoa tannin and smokey notes, warming whiskey, bourbon and lots of oak chip dryness with a slight vegemite saltiness. Sherry sweet, oak and honey with brilliant, warming balance.

Final Thoughts:

This is quite possibly the best dessert style brew I’ve ever had. Sure, sweetness is going to be expected here but with the barrel ageing there is some serious complexity driving the finish, rounding out aromatics and adding fantastic dryness. Those whiskey bourbon notes are an absolute knock out. Overall, the sweetness is brilliantly balanced with well integrated tannin dryness from the barrel ageing and a warmth spreading to you fingers and toes. Harmonious, warming and complex, it has literally got it all. Luckily for me I got myself another bottle, cannot wait to see how this looks with a bit a cellaring. With an impressive core range and some brilliant experimental stuff going on (they now have started a barrel ageing program), keeping an eye on these guys would be in your best interest.

Wolf of the Willows ISA

wotwISA

The big question on my lips, and I’m sure many others, was how The Wolf of the Willows was going to follow up from their first rather excellent release, XPA. The answer: another acronym, ISA, translating to India Saison. Following up on this release was never going to be easy, the XPA was one of last years biggest releases coming in at number 100 in last years Craft Beer Hottest 100. That’s seriously impressive for a brand new brewery. Like their first release, this one was shrouded in mystery, even on brew day. It was basically an Instagram guessing game for all keeping track through out the day, which I’m sure there were many, going under the hashtag what’s the brew mr wolf? I thought it was a rather nice touch and a clever bit of marketing which I have now come to associate with everything Scott does, guy seriously knows what he’s doing. So let’s see how Wolf of the Willows India Saison turned out…

Style: India Saison

ABV: 5.2%

IBU: N/A

From: The guys themselves, Scotty and Renae. Thanks a tonne!

Pour:

Pours a slightly hazy lemon gold with fine white head.

On The Nose:

A massive, wet hop hit straight off the bat: tonnes of tropical fruits, lashings of citrus and juicy stone fruits. Think fresh lychee, mouth watering mango, sweet, tangy pineapple, peach blossom, fresh peeled nectarine, candied orange zest, lime and bitter grapefruit. A dry, crisp sweet spice finish: cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg with slight farmhouse funk in the background.

Palate:

The palate kicks off fresh and clean with plenty of tropical fruit bitters, citrus and sweet stone fruits. Candied orange flesh and zest, bitter ruby grapefruit, lime juice, fresh peach, tangy nectarine, juicy mango and light pineapple. Rye kicks in mid palate with slight earthy notes and sweet spices, mouthfeel is rounded out from the oat additions. Finishes off with classic dry cereal notes, drops off pretty quick though.

Final Thoughts:

This is the beer equivalent of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back for Wolf of the Willows. A brilliant sequel to an stupendous beginning and part of one of the great ongoing sagas of our generation. Some brilliant work from Scotty yet again, this one has really stepped up to the XPA and exceeded. Let us hope the next brew brings the game just as much!

Exit #005 Amber Ale

exitamber

Seeing new stuff from Exit is always exciting and you are always assured some serious quality. Fraser and Grum have done a huge amount of ground work, resulting in one of Melbourne’s best and brightest when it comes to quality brewing. I think the thing I love most about them is that they have set out to cover all styles, they aren’t focusing on anything specific. Brilliant, solid, well balanced representations of styles is what you get here, all of them seriously tasty. Let’s see what number 5 has in store for us…

Style: Amber Ale

ABV: 5.6%

IBU: N/A

From: Low Buy Liquor, Lilydale

Pour:

Pours a deep burnt orange with off white, fluffy head.

On The Nose:

Packed full of dry hop goodness on the nose: lots of candied orange zest and burnt orange, floral citrus blossom, melon and tonnes of red fruits with malty biscuit notes in the background along with white pepper and clove.

Palate:

Not a huge amount of fruit sweetness on the palate but plenty of cracking malt, great bitters and a soft, light mouthfeel. Lots of malty, toffee sweetness up front with roasted nuts, toast and light espresso bitters followed by some light citrus notes: think orange blossom, subtle grapefruit and candied orange zest with notes of chewy red fruits. Finishes fairly clean with medium bitters in the end.

Palate:

This is a fantastic addition to the Exit line up. A brilliant balance of malt and hops, there is no struggle between them, it is very harmonious for an amber. Plenty of dry hopping makes the nose pop brilliantly then balances out with sweet toffee malts. Brilliant take on the style, usually Ambers don’t do it for me but this is a massive, massive exception. Great work boys.

Yeastie Boys: The Spoonbender Series

spoonbenderseries

I know I am a bit late to the party with these brews. It was kind of one of those things that has been on the back burner and then there was a new release I had to drink, and then another… You know the feeling I’m sure. The Spoonbender series is basically a collaboration series between the Yeastie Boys and other industries, other crews and people that do not necessarily  think the way they do. What they are looking for is the strange. Something that may not have been thought of before because of the variance between the industry. With this series the Yeastie Boys have teamed up with South Australian winemakers Some Young Punks and have used their already fermented and aged botrytis Viognier and have created a candi- sugar to use in the brewing process.

What’s botrytis you say? Very simply put it’s a form of good ‘rot’ on grapes, sometimes known as ‘Noble Rot’. It shrivels and decays the fruit but at the same time greatly intensifies the sweetness of the fruit and adds some very interesting complexity. Noble Rot is found in wines like Sauternes from Bordeaux, Tokaji from Hungary and a lot of German Rieslings and are known for their sweetness, stickiness and a certain ‘honey’ quality. Candi- sugar may also be a familiar term to you as well; it is a brewing sugar used mostly in Belgium to brew styles such as Tripels and Dubbel. It boosts alcohol content without adding too much body, giving that warming, sticky feeling so well known with those richer belgian styles. So with this in mind you can already sort of form a picture of how this will translate to the beer, particularly with the styles they have chosen to brew: Pale Ale, Imperial Porter and a Tripel. So let’s kick off the series and see how it translates ourselves.

slypersuader

The Sly Persuader

Style: Pale Ale /  ABV: 6% / IBU: 20

Pour:

Pours a pale orange lemon with minimal stark white head and fine lacing.

On The Nose:

Getting plenty of stewed apricot on the nose, fleshy orange and candied orange pith, lime zest, fresh peach and smatterings of tropical fruits: think mango, honey dew melon and lychees. Picking up faint floral notes of honeysuckle, chamomile and orange blossom with cereal/ hay dryness.

Palate:

Extremely well balanced pale ale here. Packed full of chewy, stewy apricot, nectarine and peach with plenty of citrus acidity: orange blossom, preserved lemon and lime juice. A slight sticky sweetness in the mouthfeel with a refreshing dry finish of honeysuckle, clove and candied ginger.

Final Thoughts:

A really well structured, balanced pale ale. I expected the candi- sugar to shine through a bit more on the palate but it was definitely there. I guess you don’t want to make a pale ale cloying, that kinda defeats the purpose…  Plenty of sweetness shining through with slight sticky sweetness in the mouthfeel with some dried stewed fruit characters and a dry, refreshing finish. A very interesting little pale ale.

lastdictator

The Last Dictator

Style: Imperial Porter / ABV: 10% / IBU: 72

Pour:

Pours a deep, dark brown, almost black, with light brown tinges on the edges and minimal light tan brown head.

On The Nose:

Getting a sticky vinous grape must quality on the nose with  boozy Christmas cake, rum and raisin, burnt toffee, espresso, vanilla bean and sweet, rich milk chocolate. Plenty of roasted nuts too finishing in sticky red fruits: think cranberries, currants and stewed plums.

Palate:

First hit on the palate is all about rich, roasted malts, espresso bitters and burnt toffee. This softens out to rich chocolate fudge, chewy caramel, vanilla bean and boozy rum and raisin with that sticky grape must sweetness returning again. Getting lots of sweet spice in the mix too: clove, nutmeg and cinnamon sticks with light star anise/ liquorice notes. Mouthfeel is rich, luscious and sticky, coating the entire palate with a hint in honeyed alcohol, just warming the mouth.

Final Thoughts:

This is an absolutely cracking imperial Porter. I feel the botrytis does actually bring something to this brew with that grape must quality, and it appears in every aspect. The nose certainly has a musky, sticky grape muscatel quality to it, the palate also brings a sticky vinous quality to the table too with honey beeswax characters. The mouthfeel is an absolute knockout for me; sticky, unctuous and all kinds of deliciousness. The label puts it perfectly, the botrytis is really ‘infused’ in this brew and plays to the strengths of the style. This brew in my opinion really hits the brief the Yeastie Boys set out to accomplish. Really well done.

sunbeforedarkness

The Sun Before The Darkness

Style: Tripel / ABV: 10% / IBU: 50

Pour:

Pours a hazy burnt orange with minimal off white foam.

On The Nose:

Sweet as sweet can be on the nose with heaps of candied fruit sweetness straight up front. Lots of candied orange zest, sweet orange flesh, dried apricot, notes of bubblegum, citrus blossom, juicy ripe peaches and preserved mango. Notes of cinnamon, sugary caramel and vanilla in the finish.

Palate:

Palate is sweet, spicy and fantastically warm, spreading to all the extremities. Getting those sugary candy fruits here too: stewy orange, candied citrus pith, dried apricot, mango and a grapefruit bitterness with sticky caramel, honey notes and grape must. Sweetness gives way to warm, boozy spices and notes of cedar. Mouthfeel is silky, warming, rich and completely coating. Brilliant complexity.

Final Thoughts:

This one seriously hit the spot and was a clever choice to build around botrytis Viognier. Plenty of sticky sweetness with classic botrytis characteristics: almost like a good olorosso or other sticky sherry it is honey sweet and sticky with layers of complexity. I would have to say, this is one of the best Tripels I’ve ever tasted. Completely and utterly brilliant.

Final Thoughts On The Series:

I have to say, it is seriously commendable for thinking outside the box with this project. It would have been so easy to go for something obvious like barrel ageing but the idea of taking botrytis Viognier, reducing it to candi- sugar and brewing with that was some ingenious thinking. The idea of designing the beer around the botrytis was also very clever as they have been able to ingrate it into the various styles, and it worked brilliantly for the most part. I don’t think it worked quite as well for the Pale Ale as it should have; there are aspects but it didn’t quite hit the brief to me. The Tripel and Imperial Porter on the other hand were absolutely outstanding with the botrytis shining brilliantly and complementing the styles perfectly. Seriously looking forward to the next series if it’s this kind of thinking and ingenuity, this kind of thinking is what makes industries move forward and think outside the boundary of their own profession. Here’s hoping this sort of experimentation continues…

Doctors Orders Zephyr

docsorderszephyr

So glad to see Doctors Orders finally making it to bottle now. I was particularly excited to get this as I’ve never had the chance to sample but what I have drunk has always impressed. Their Prescription 12 Belgian Black IPA made it into my Top Ten of 2014 and also got my vote for the Hottest 100,  though I was very surprised that none of their brews made it into the countdown… But alas, it was not to be. So lets see what Zephyr holds in store…

Style: Imperial Witbier

ABV: 7.5%

IBU: N/A

From Where: Low Buy Liquor, Lilydale

Pour:

Pours a golden orange with compact white head and fine lacing.

On The Nose:

Some amazing aromatics getting picked up in the glass. Brilliant lemon myrtle, chamomile, dry hay, green apple, juicy nectarine and fleshy peach. Getting light notes of lemon pith, orange zest, coriander and white pepper with candied ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and lolly bananas.

Palate:

Classic witbier notes here, layers and layers of it. It starts with sweet juicy peaches, apricot and nectarine melding into floral lemon myrtle, fresh honey dew and candied orange zest in abundance. Finishing in dry farmhouse lees, notes of fresh cut coriander, wheat grain, star anise and white pepper.

Final Thoughts:

This is witbier brilliantly magnified by a thousand with the classic Doctors Orders touch. Some clever brewing had gone into this with the Doctors twist: Classic but amplified, this is a brilliant brew to think about on a warm summers day. Seriously clever, tasty and another brilliant brew. Can’t wait to see whats coming in 2015, will be watching very closely! Perhaps 2015 will be the year for them to get into the Hottest 100. Fingers crossed…

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!

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.